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Reaction to vote on sexuality
Delegate Jo Ann Carlotto (left) of the New England Conference wipes her eyes with a rainbow stole after 2012 General Conference delegates voted to maintain the United Methodist Church's stance against homosexual practice.
Delegates fail to agree they disagree
TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) — After more than an hour of passionate debate and clear disagreement, two items stating Christians have different opinions about homosexuality were not approved by the General Conference, The United Methodist Church’s highest policy-making body, leaving the language in the Book of Discipline intact.
The Book of Discipline, ¶161F states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, Tipp City, Ohio, proposed a substitution to¶161F that sought to clarify that United Methodists disagree on whether homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God.
Their proposal urged unity over division and respect for co-existence. The substitution replaced the last paragraph of a petition submitted by the Global Convocation of Young People after its 2010 conference.
Hamilton reminded delegates that John Wesley once said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”
Praying, holding hands, signs
As discussion on the petition began, many who support including lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people quietly stood outside the bar of the plenary floor praying, holding hands and signs.
Throughout the days leading up to the legislation, members of coalitions seeking equality and inclusion for all had been protesting and praying for change. After the vote to keep the original wording in the Book of Discipline, they moved to the altar singing, “Let us Break Bread Together.”
“Many feel we need to take a strong stand against homosexuality,” said the Rev. James Howell of the Western North Carolina Conference “What matters is God’s will. We have said for a long time we do not condone homosexuality, but they are here, they are in our delegations, they are serving our churches. They keep coming back … There is a kind of miracle in that.”
Leaves out good teaching
The Rev. Maxie Dunham of the Kentucky Conference spoke against the substitution saying, “It leaves out good teaching.” He said there is no reason to state United Methodists disagree, because “we disagree about almost everything.”
They keep coming back … There is a kind of miracle in that.
Slaughter said agreeing to disagree was necessary because there are people within his church and others that do disagree. “At Ginghamsburg, we have Christ-centered, Bible-believing Christians who are against this and for this and somehow it is working when we agree to disagree,” he said. “It’s making one heaven of a difference in Dayton, Ohio, and in places as far as Darfur, Sudan.”
Ralph Williams, a lay delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference, said some of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Christians attending this conference “have been told they should be stoned, that this is what the Bible prescribes for our sin.” He said those conversations took place during holy conferencing sessions.
When asked the intention behind the substitution, Hamilton replied it would not change the church’s stance on same-sex marriage or ordination of gay clergy.
Incompatible with Christian teaching
The discussion around the petition also included debate about whether homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
Kashal Kabung, South-West Katanga Conference [Democratic Republic of Congo], said he did not believe homosexuality was created by God. “I stand to say the grace of God is for all people, but the grace of God does not allow us to sin,” he said.
Jen Ihlo, a Baltimore-Washington lay delegate, worked on the committee and subcommittee on human sexuality. She said there was lengthy debate about where the church is on homosexuality. She said Central Conference brothers and sisters asked, “Where was the compromise?”
“This petition represents that compromise,” Ihlo said. “It states our positions are vastly different. I am a lesbian and a child of God. I strongly urge the body to adopt this compromise so gay youths will recognize the church loves them and the pain will stop.”
The Rev. Jim Cowart, delegate from South Georgia Conference, said: “We disagree, and we do need tolerance. But for some, tolerance means all beliefs are equal, and that is not true.
“We love you just like you are, and we love you enough to tell you what scriptures say.”
At the end of the vote, supporters of LGBT people crowded around the altar, singing. The session ended early because of the demonstration.
Kathy Gilbert is a member of the United Methodist News Service team. Tita Parham is a freelance writer and editor in Apopka, Fla., and a member of the UMNS team for GC2012.