Sunday, May 15, 2016

Post 6 ... #UMCGC 2016

Paragraph 304.3 in the United Methodist Book of Discipline =

"While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."

The petition before us would have changed it to =

"While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is not considered by all to be incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, authority for discerning suitability for ordination continues to rest with the annual conference as provided in para. 33 of the Constitution, following candidacy procedures as provided in the Book of Discipline, and authority for making appointments continues to rest with the bishop after a consultative process to determine the suitability of such an appointment."

This was part of a plan called "A Third Way," created as a compromise that neither extreme was going to like, but those of us truly in the middle could live with.

The essence is: remove "being gay" as a disqualification for being ordained as a pastor across the entire church, and leave that decision to individual conferences.

This petition came out of the subcommittee with a 19-9 vote in favor, which was encouraging! Broad support in a subcommittee is a good thing, because those are the people who know each other best, have talked together, worked side by side on the petition, and now were commending it to the full committee.

The discussion in full committee was respectful and gracious. I commend the chairperson, Bill Arnold, for setting a very collegial tone for the group.

I spoke. I stood to speak in favor of the petition, and talked about unity and freedom. If we are truly one church, united in Christ, the question is how much freedom will we allow someone else in their practice of ministry? If I see things differently than you do, am I willing to allow you to do your work differently than me, in the way that you have determined works best in your context, for the sake of the one mission and purpose of our church? And would you do the same for me?

The response, in the next speech against, was dramatic. What kind of freedom, the speaker asked, is it really, when giving freedom to one person is "putting a noose around the neck" of another?

You may want to go back and read that again, just to make sure you got it.

The speaker's point was that in Africa, there is so much hostility toward homosexuality and homosexual people, that to allow anyone, anywhere to ordain a gay person would be literally physically dangerous to pastors and churches in African conferences. So the argument against allowing individual conferences to decide whether or not sexual orientation should be a qualification for ordination is, ordaining for example a gay man in New England would kill a pastor in Africa.

And finally, it was time to vote. And it failed by a vote of 30-34. That's pretty close, and it means the petition will be calendared for debate on the plenary floor. And so we'll see what happens.

And so it goes.

But the coolest part of the whole thing was what happened AFTER all of that. On a break, out in the hall, I met my friend Nestor Gerente. It turns out Nestor had been translating in the room in which I had been working. He had translated my speech (and the others, of course) into Tagalog (I think) for the Faith and Order committee that day. What a cool connection!

He thanked me for my words, and told me how hard it is for him to not get overly emotional when he is translating, particularly when the content is our denomination's inclusiveness of people who are gay. We spoke a while, and took a picture to mark the occasion.

And that is one small example of the good stuff of General Conference. The people with whom you can connect. The woman I had never met before who embraced me after that session. The pastor who is on the "other side" of the issue from me who shook my hand afterwards and thanked me for what I had said. The young man I spoke with this morning who has sensed a nudge to be a pastor, but is not allowed to follow that divine call because of the doctrine of his church.

We are a profoundly connectional church, we who are called United Methodist. And that connection is so much deeper than our Book of Discipline. Our connection is eye-to-eye, hand-in-hand, hugs and handshakes. And singing. Oh man, can we ever sing!

The point being, far too many United Methodists derive our connectional identity from the Book of Discipline. Frankly that's not where we are connected; that is precisely where we are most fractured.

We are called to a much higher standard than Robert's Rules of Order.
We are called to a much deeper connection than the trust clause.
We are called to a profound unity that is not derived from our clergy pension fund.

We are more than what is happening in legislative committees and plenary business sessions. We are more than our doctrine. We are more than our Discipline. And if there's only one thing I hope people know about General Conference 2016, I really hope it is that the United Methodist witness to the world extends beyond those mundane things. We are so much more.

(Check out the We Are More website right here.)


scott said...

If this is the case maybe American United Methodist would be safest forming a separate denomination to avoid be held hostage by cultures who do not affirm that all of humanity, not just straight men and women, are created in God's image. God loves all of humanity, not just straight humanity. And biblically all sin and fall sort of God's glory.

Anonymous said...

This issue isn't about Robert's rules of order. It isn't a petty little"thing". This is about something beyond a human stain. It's taking an openly sinful situation and placing an acceptance card on it. It's completely making a mockery of the cross, it's taking the words of Jesus,when he told the woman to " Go and sin no more" be more like,Wait till I die and you can do what you want with no repercussion. Where does it stop? What will we stand for. Love all? Yes. Lie to them by saying some sin is acceptable? Shame on us and God help us!!!

George Nixon Shuler said...

I don't doubt that there is significant opposition to homosexuality in Africa. I question the assertion that the lack of same puts a pastor in danger of death.

Anonymous said...

Why does the life of an African Methodist pastor matters more than the lives of 21 African American t ranswomen murdered in the USA this year?
By our silence we condone these atrocities wherever they occur. You cannot make disciples or transform the world by keeping silent

Follower of Christ said...

If you are reading this blog, please research what the Bible says about homosexuality. The issue is not what you or I think or feel about it, but what God's Holy Word says. Please read the first chapter of Romans and 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 and the link below.

We need to be loving, kind, helpful, and welcome everyone into our church. Paul speaks of the fruit of the Spirit that should be evident in all followers of Christ in Galatians 6:22.
Our first obligation is to follow God's Word. Secondly, as Americans, I think we can agree that all humans deserve respect and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
At the same time we can't compromise our discipline to allow leaders of our churches to engage in lifestyles that the Bible says will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Not just homosexuality.) This can't be a matter of local churches deciding, it has to be based on scripture and the translations that have been interpreted the same way by many languages and cultures for centuries.

Follower of Christ said...
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