UMNS photo courtesy of The Iowa Annual Conference.
Promises of support and prayers for healing for gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people are coming from bishops, pastors and laity as The United Methodist Church begins annual (regional) conferences around the globe.
At the Iowa Conference June 2-5, two documents with hundreds of signatures expressed compassion for gays. More than 500 signed a “Do No Harm” covenant stating the denomination’s top lawmaking body made decisions that violated John Wesley’s first General Rule by failing to acknowledge that members of The United Methodist Church are divided on homosexuality.
The covenant states, “When following the Book of Discipline requires us to do harm by discriminating against, diminishing, or demeaning our sisters and brothers in the family of faith, we are in an impossible situation and will be faithful to the law as interpreted by Jesus rather than comply with the Book of Discipline.”
A second document, “Covenant of Conscience,” is in support of same-sex marriage.
Clergy signers of that document pledged “in accordance with our ordination vows to ‘seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people,’ commit to marrying without bias or discrimination all people who seek the blessing of the church and are prepared to assume the privileges and responsibilities of a loving, committed, covenant relationship.”
Laity signers pledged to support clergy in living out their duty.
The 2012 General Conference was April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla. General Conference is the only body that speaks for the denomination. During the 2012 assembly, the church maintained its language that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” that gays cannot be ordained and clergy will not be allowed to perform same-sex marriages.
‘Let it begin with me’
In his address to the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference, Bishop John Schol said he believes “gay and lesbian people are children of God … (who) can live in loving, committed relationships that reflect God’s grace-filled love.
“I do not understand all of the mysteries of human sexuality,” Schol said. “I believe that our sexuality is a gift from the Creator to be shared in loving, committed relationships.”
Schol said he knew there would be those who disagree but he wanted open and honest conversations.
“I want you to know what I think and feel. … So let it begin with me.”
Minnesota opposes marriage amendment
Members of the Minnesota Annual Conference, meeting May 30-June 1, voted to send a resolution opposing a proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution that only a union of one man and one woman would be recognized as marriage. The proposal will be on the November ballot.