Thursday, May 03, 2012
Methodists vote to keep stand on homosexuality
TAMPA, Fla. — After an emotional debate, Methodists at a national legislative meeting Thursday upheld the denomination's policy that same-sex relationships are "incompatible with Christian teaching.'"
Delegates at the General Conference voted by about 60 percent to 40 percent against softening the language on homosexuality in their Book of Discipline, which contains church laws and doctrine. The meeting is held once every four years, which means the policy won't come up for a conference vote again until 2016.
Advocates for gay and lesbian Methodists gathered in the convention hall wearing rainbow stoles and protested the vote by singing and interrupting the meeting. Some cried when the vote tally was announced. Methodist leaders briefly shut down business in response to the protest.
With just under 8 million U.S. members, the United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the country, with a significant and growing membership of more than 4 million overseas. However, the number of Methodists is shrinking inside the U.S., while expanding in African and Asian countries where the church is theologically conservative.
In many of the Asian & African countries, homo-bigotry is not only the norm, it's the law. The UMC does not support punitive civil laws against homosexuals. Unless the United Methodist Church finds some way to separate delegates from those countries & deal with the matter for America only, any further attempts at future General Conferences (held every four years) to revise the Book of Discipline & remove the offensive language are doomed. Probably doomed anyway, given the size & power of the southern delegations. The UMC is based on an episcopal structure (with Bishops & a hierarchy), not on individual congregations, so the matter cannot be left to local preferences. A UMC pastor who performs a same sex marriage ceremony - even in a state where it is legal - is subject to church discipline. Gas & lesbians can be ordained, but only if they are celibate, since the UMC will not recognize any monogamous same sex relationship, legal civil marriage or not.
The situation for Methodist LGBT & their supporters is increasingly untenable. Their own support organizations, activities & conferences are not recognized by the UMC. The UCC, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church in USA have moved on & ahead. It may be time for those United Methodist Districts that support full inclusion for LGBT to explore doing the same & withdrawing from the UMC.
I've felt for many years that Methodist LGBT are too nice. The transcript of the 2004 church witch trial that defrocked lesbian pastor Beth Stroud is irritatingly polite on both sides. She got bounced hard all the same. Reconciling Ministries, the largest UMC LGBT right group, has wonderful, upbeat annual conferences if the brochure I receive every year is to be believed. But they seem incapable of making a fight. Individual congregations are reasoned into hanging "Open & Welcoming" over their doors, but it applies only to that church. The United Methodist Church remains closed & unwelcoming. I wonder why, at the General Conference, they didn't identify delegates from nations with brutal anti-homosexual laws (who probably voted almost 100% against changing the BoD), introduced resolutions condemning those laws (which would be in concert with the Church's public stance & social values), instructing delegates from those nations to oppose the laws (dangerous)? Force them to vote for or against the resolutions, or abstain. That's playing hardball. If you reside in a country that turns a blind eye towatd gays being lynched, that incarcerates homosexuals just for being gay,* maybe the Christian thing to do is to risk having yourself locked up with them.
*Some of these laws in African nations have been connected to the influence of conservative American Evangelical political operatives.