A group of close to 500 United Methodists from around the world will convene August 25-28 to plan for a future of increased LGBT affirmation within the church. The “Sing a New Song” convocation will take place in Huron, Ohio, amid ever increasing support for LGBT people among Methodists and Methodist clergy.
"Friends, families, bishops, clergy and laity are joining together and speaking out. Like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, they have been changed from judgment to love,” said Tim Tennant-Jayne, a spokesperson for Affirmation United Methodists. “We are all going to Ohio to worship, sing and plan so that the next generation can say to us when the doors are open to everyone, 'well done thou good and faithful servant.'"
"The Spirit is opening people's hearts," said Troy Plummer, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network. "Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians have joined the United Church of Christ in ordaining candidates based on their ability for ministry, rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity. We know that God is opening the hearts of United Methodists as well."
The growing movement of Methodist Clergy has challenged the Church’s laws on marriage equality and the ordination of openly LGBT people. Hundreds of clergy in New England, Illinois and Minnesota have pledged to bless marriages for all couples. The dissent has been met with some resistance – the Rev. Amy DeLong was suspended in June for performing a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple, and the Rev. Greg Renstrom of New Harmony United Methodist Church is currently under investigation for performing blessing ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
While acknowledging that these Church laws are unambiguous, the Wisconsin committee charging Rev. DeLong in June described the investigation and trial as “fundamentally unjust,” and said that “offenses based on sexual orientation are inconsistent with Social Principles in the Discipline that address Human Sexuality and Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation.” However, while the Social Principles provide a “prayerful and thoughtful effort to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world,” they are not considered Church law.
The denomination’s law book, the Book of Discipline, says that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or approved to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
"The church works hard to fulfill Christ's commandment to love your neighbor," said Jill A. Warren, executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. "United Methodists support human rights for all people, including LGBT people. I pray for a day when we can all work together to bring peace to war torn countries and to be good stewards of God's creation, as fully-inclusive United Methodist neighbors."
The next United Methodist General Conference, during which church law may be modified, will take place in late April 2012.