Supporters of LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church suffered a disappointing loss last week at the United Methodist Church General Conference. Earlier in the conference, LGBT United Methodists reported hurtful words and actions being used in small group conversations (called “holy conferencing”). One delegate, Mark Miller, even attempted to point out the hurtful words and actions.
The need for authentic conversation about human sexuality is so important. However, the process that we attempted yesterday failed us. It failed because of a lack of leadership and oversight, because the process did not respect people. It didn't plan for the care of those who were hurt by the process, so we are standing here as gay and lesbian delegates. Yesterday the church did us harm, but when we're harmed, the church is harmed. We serve at every level of the church, though very few will admit it. We were bullied emotionally, spiritually, and physically, and it didn't seem like anyone did anything.
Motions to remove the language that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was defeated, as was a petition that would acknowledge the honesty that faithful United Methodists disagree on the place of LGBT people in the church was defeated.
In response to the lack of inclusion in the church, supporters of full inclusion sang and served communion to all. The presiding bishop, Michael Coyner of the Indiana Conference, cited the witness as a “security concern” and source of confusion. He dismissed the plenary session for lunch and announced that only delegates would be allowed back into the hall at the end of the lunch break. LGBT people and supporters remained in the plenary hall singing while the lights were shut off around them.
The legislation was postponed and referred to the Agenda and Calendar group to become the last item to be discussed, with hope that it would not come up at all. Leaders of the demonstration were told that the legislation was postponed to avoid more harm to LGBT people and their supporters.
With no further opportunity to discuss issues of human sexuality, including marriage equality, on the plenary floor, supporters of full inclusion held a rally on Friday to celebrate the 1,200 United Methodists who have already pledged to fulfill their ordination vows to minister to all people. The rally also called for more United Methodists to pledge to support marriage equality. Organizers hope to double the number of United Methodists who have pledged to support all couples.
“You see, we, too, have the good book on our side, our Biblical marching orders,” Retired Bishop Marvin Talbert said at the rally, as he was joined by 14 other bishops. “I call on the clergy who have signed the pledge to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages among same-sex couples and to do so in the normal course of their pastoral duties,” he said. “Encourage your congregations to support you by taking actions to support you in your efforts to be faithful to the Gospel by taking action [to use] your local church facilities for such marriages.”
The coalition will continue to advocate and organize to open the altar to all United Methodists.
The United Methodist Church General Conference met in Tampa, Florida from April 24 until May 4.GLAAD was on the ground in Tampa, supporting the Love Your Neighbor Campaign with communications, media, writing, pitching, and messaging. Love Your Neighbor is a coalition of Affirmation: United Methodists, Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR), Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM), the Native American International Caucus of The United Methodist Church (NAIC), Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) and the United Methodist Association of Ministers with Disabilities (UMAMD). Together, the coalition works for a more inclusive church for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people—always in a broader context that strives for justice around issues of race, gender, global partnerships, peace, stewardship of creation and economic justice.