This year the United Methodist Church held its quadrennial General Conference, where they were scheduled to revisit (as they do every four years, according to my Methodist friends) that church’s discriminatory language against LGBT people.
Candace Chellew-Hodge of Religion Dispatches is reporting that delegates voted this morning on a petition to remove passages in the UMC’s Book of Discipline that call LGBT orientation/identity “incompatible with Christian teaching” and exclusively sanction opposite-sex marriages. Tragically, the petition was voted down and the anti-gay language preserved.
The vote apparently came after a contentious debate pitting supporters of LGBT inclusion against delegates from sexually conservative countries, including African nations. One African delegate conflated homosexuality and bestiality and denied that God creates any gay or lesbian people.
Chellew-Hodge recounts what happened next:
During the vote, supporters of the petition to change the Book of Discipline stood at the edges of the convention floor, or the “bar” as the church calls it. As the debate continued, many delegates moved from their seats to join the members on the margins to show their solidarity. In the end the petition failed to pass.
When the conference reconvened after a break, those who supported the petition remained in the hall, singing as business began again. The presiding bishop, Michael Coyner of the Indiana Conference, shut down the meeting, calling the LGBT advocates a “security concern.”
Singing? A security concern? Sheesh — I’m a vocal musician myself, and if I had known that the simple act of singing held such subversive power, I’d have bought tickets to CPAC and sung “Kumbaya” with Maggie Gallagher! Who knows what mischief I’d have been able to accomplish?
In all seriousness, though, today is a sad day for the United Methodist Church. How tragic that they chose again to accommodate bigotry rather than act justly, walk humbly, and reach out inclusively to their LGBT congregants (especially since so many churches and Methodist groups are already doing so). This pandering to the Stone Age sexual mores of anti-gay leaders is a troubling pattern in mainline Protestant churches that needs to be reversed. The UMC will have two other opportunities to take positive steps in that direction during their General Conference: before the gathering’s scheduled end tomorrow, delegates will take up the ordination of LGBT clergy and the (non-marital) blessing of same-sex relationships.
Given what happened today, I’m not holding my breath, but anything is possible.