Where We Stand On the Issue Of Homosexuality - Compilation Of Annual Conference Reports
Methodist Conferences voting to change Book of Discipline regarding Homosexuality: (or showing sympathy to cause)
The conference voted to send recommendations to the denomination's 2000 General Conference to change wording in the Book of Discipline relating to ministry with and for homosexuals. Speakers from the majority opinion and the minority view called for reconciliation and healing in the church, citing the commonality of all Christians -- that they "love God, love Jesus and love the church." Speeches in the spirit of reconciliation lifted up the value of dwelling on the commonality in all United Methodists instead of on the issues that divide.
The delegates voted to change the words in Paragraph 65g to: "We are not of one mind concerning homosexuality, and we affirm that Gods grace is available to all." In Paragraph 65c, they voted to strike the reference to homosexual unions, and in paragraph 304 on ministry, the vote was to delete the words, "Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."
Northern Illinois Annual Conference
June 5-8, Dekalb
In what most observers viewed as a protest against the denominations restrictions on the participation of homosexuals in church life, members of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference elected a slate of delegates to General Conference dominated by candidates supporting change in the churchs official position.
Included on the slate is the Rev. Gregory Dell, who was suspended from his pastoral duties, effective July 5, by a trial court that found him "disobedient to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church." The March trial stemmed from Dell's performance of a holy union service for two men who are members of the congregation of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago. The Rev. Larry Pickens, pastor of Maple Park United Methodist Church in Chicago and Dells counsel for the trial, was also elected.
Conference members approved a petition to be sent to General Conference calling for deletion of the sentence in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that declares the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."
A resolution encouraging conference members to offer pastoral ministry to homosexuals was approved. It called for pastoral guidance of congregations in education and discernment and ministry to homosexuals in "their struggles for reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self." The resolution also encouraged members "to acknowledge the commitment of two homosexual persons to be in loving and mutually beneficial relationships with each other and with God."
The annual conference also passed a resolution acknowledging that its members are unable to arrive at a common mind on the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian faith. The members therefore affirmed that they want to be known as a conference that welcomes all people in their faith communities and is committed to building bridges of understanding and trust between those who have been divided on this issue. "Alone, we are not equal to this task, but we are not alone," they stated in the resolution. "We ask God to lead us as we enter into the work of trust, hospitality and welcome."
After a year-long study on homosexuality and the church, a committee headed by Barbara Denison reported to the conference that meaningful dialogue and the act of listening to all sides of the issue had brought the committee to conclude that churches needed to be in serious and compassionate discussions about the need to minister to homosexuals, their families and friends. Two members of the committee spoke to the conference about their journey over the past year in working with the committee and urged conference delegates to dialogue and listen. Presiding Bishop Neil L. Irons said he was impressed with the presentations of the two committee members and asked that their presentation be videotaped at a later date and made available to all congregations for further research and study on homosexuality.
Troy Annual Conference
Passed a resolution of support to congregations, pastors and members who choose to participate in the Reconciling Congregations program. Reconciling Congregations is a coalition of United Methodist congregations and organizations that publicize the fact that they are open to full participation of all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation.
Voted to send a petition to General Conference seeking to modify the fifth paragraph of 65g in the Book of Discipline to read: "The sacred worth of human beings is not determined by a person's sexual orientation. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others and with self. Acknowledging disagreements and divisions within the United Methodist Church about the meaning, nature, and origins of sexual orientation, and how the totality of Christian teaching guides us in our response to differing sexual orientation, we call the church to prayerful reflection, study, and discernment about how we minister to one another in the midst of such disagreements...."
Amend Paragraph 65g by striking the last sentence of that paragraph "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching" -- and replacing it with the words, "Although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching ... we affirm that Gods grace is available to all."
Several petitions and resolutions that came before Cal-Nevada members were influenced by the controversy over holy unions and how the church relates to homosexuals. A conference investigating committee received a complaint June 15 against 68 Cal-Nevada ministers who participated in a Jan. 16 same-sex union service in Sacramento.
The conference adopted resolutions and petitions asking the 2000 General Conference to expand the Judicial Council's membership; amend the Book of Discipline to be more inclusive in its language dealing with homosexuality; offer support toward a ban on anti-personnel land mines; support church initiatives in Russia; support African-American farmers; and end commercial logging in ancient forests.
Petitions to amend the Social Principles were also adopted, including one specifying that the principles are not church law. Others deal with food safety, the environmental protection of children and the protection of ancient forests.
Cal-Nevada members created a committee on human sexuality to bring about more dialogue on issues that divide the conference.
In petitions to General Conference, conference members:
recommend deletion of exclusionary language regarding homosexuals; request the lifting of restrictions on funding by church agencies of any gay group; affirm sanctity of all marriage covenants and ask for deletion from the Book of Discipline of language preventing clergy from conducting ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions;
Legislatively, the Pacific Northwest members voted to recommend to General Conference the removal of text in the Book of Discipline related to homosexual unions, offering an amendment that allows pastors to rely on their individual integrity and conscience, rather than on a mandate from the denomination.
The members also voted to recommend removal of the language in the Book of Discipline related to "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" and ordination. Additionally, the group voted to remove the "condone" language regarding homosexuality in the Book of Discipline, admitting that the church is still not of one mind on this issue, and that more discernment must take place.
Before voting on these items, 11 testimonials were heard from conference clergy, who are "closeted" gay, lesbian or bisexual people.
After Poos-Benson's remarks, Swenson addressed the conference. She alluded to a recent charge by local church member Mel Brown that she has failed to uphold the Book of Discipline with regard to same-sex unions.
"Why are we so concerned about sex, and so silent about violence?" she asked the conference. "Why don't I receive letters accusing me and our church of failing to meet the needs of the poor and hungry? There are only three enemies of the church: racism, poverty and violence. Why would we let anything distract us from this ministry?"
Swenson then invited delegates to consider a series of questions, distributed on small cards: "In a time of violence, how do we spend our time coming together?" "In a time when people put labels on one another, labels so destructive that it leads to the destruction of lives, what names are we using for each other?"
Conferences Voting To Retain Current Language (or not making a change)
*affirming the retention of Paragraph 65g in the Book of Discipline, stating that United Methodists do not condone homosexual practice but affirming that God's grace is available to all;
Illinois Great Rivers
Amend the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality to require all bishops to "diligently enforce the judicial and supervisory processes" regarding same-sex unions.
Voted not to debate or forward six recommendations to the General Conference.
Withheld support for a petition to General Conference to amend the Book of Discipline by removing both the statement that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and the prohibition against homosexual union ceremonies;
A resolution was passed condemning same-sex unions and homosexuality. Other resolutions called for abolishing gambling, sweatshops and child labor, and declaring a moratorium on the death penalty.
Western New York
General Conference. Topics include: responsibilities of the Committee on Finance for the responsible handling and reporting of money received in offerings; retention of Book of Discipline wording on marriage, homosexuality, people set apart for ministry and use of United Methodist funds; and an amendment to the wording regarding chargeable offenses.
Passed a resolution that upholds current Discipline language and intent against "holy unions" between homosexuals.
Resolution for adherence to the Book of Discipline -- The conference voted that individuals in leadership roles should adhere to Paragraph 65c of the Discipline, which affirms the sanctity of the marriage covenant for a man and a woman and states that homosexual unions shall not be conducted by United Methodist ministers. The resolution states: "We must support the official position of our United Methodist Church, and as committed and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we must take our stand in defense of biblical authority and the law of our church in all matters regarding Christian faith and practice."
Delegates received 13 petitions addressing changing the language in the Book of Discipline about same-sex unions. The only petition approved asks that the current language be retained.
Urging the 2000 General Conference to "maintain its current balance of loving compassion and biblical faithfulness in its relationship with homosexual persons ... and affirm current teachings on marriage, ordination, sacred worth and the incompatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching that are found in paragraphs 65C, 65G, 304.3, & 806.12 of the 1996 Book of Discipline";instructing the New Mexico Annual Conference to "...recommend that the bishops of all conferences of the United Methodist Church, Judicial Council and other administrative agencies of the United Methodist Church begin judicial proceedings to remove the credentials of those United Methodist ministers, practicing clergy, bishops, district superintendents, or other related persons with credentials of the United Methodist Church who participated in or conducted the same-sex marriage held in California, which was publicized in the press in January 1999."
Call for adding the sentence "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches" to the Book of Discipline section titled "Responsibilities and Duties of a Pastor--Special Provisions (Paragraph 332);
Addressed homosexuality and same-sex unions Members took action to oppose any change in two paragraphs of the church's Book of Discipline on the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions.
The conference approved four resolutions to General Conference relating to ordination and four resolutions relating to human sexuality according to paragraph 65g in the Social Principles.
On the issue of homosexuality: At the 1998 session of the Oklahoma Conference, a task force was appointed to explore the feasibility of developing a ministry to assist people who want help leaving the homosexual lifestyle. The task force of 12, including people with a wide range of viewpoints on homosexuality, reported to the 1999 conference that their extensive research convinced them there is no need for the conference to develop its own exodus ministry since several ministries are already serving in the state. "There's no point in duplicating what is already being provided," the task force concluded. Their report called for continued dialogue and for a Christ-like spirit. After about 30 minutes of discussion, it was adopted by a vote of 280 to 262.
With issues concerning homosexuality expected to be debated at the 2000 General Conference, members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference affirmed the denomination's stand on homosexuality and same-sex unions at their annual meeting.
Urging the 2000 General Conference to "maintain its current balance of loving compassion and biblical faithfulness in its relationship with homosexual persons ... and affirm current teachings on marriage, ordination, sacred worth and the incompatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching that are found in paragraphs 65C, 65G, 304.3, & 806.12 of the 1996 Book of Discipline"; instructing the New Mexico Annual Conference to "...recommend that the bishops of all conferences of the United Methodist Church, Judicial Council and other administrative agencies of the United Methodist Church begin judicial proceedings to remove the credentials of those United Methodist ministers, practicing clergy, bishops, district superintendents, or other related persons with credentials of the United Methodist Church who participated in or conducted the same-sex marriage held in California, which was publicized in the press in January 1999."
Petition the Council of Bishops to strictly and comprehensively enforce the Book of Discipline;
Holston: amend Paragraph 2624.1 of the Discipline to add participation in leadership of a same-sex covenant as a chargeable offense; retain Paragraphs 68C (statement on marriage) and 65G (statement on human sexuality) as they now stand;
Supported the existing language in the Discipline on homosexuality with a few minor changes to bring various paragraphs in line;
Members also approved a petition for changing the wording of Paragraph 66H in the Discipline. The proposed change would strike the third sentence of the existing paragraph and insert this statement: "We reject, however, efforts to extend to same-sex living arrangements those rights generally reserved to preserve and support heterosexual marriage."
Calling for retaining current Book of Discipline and Social Principles wording on homosexuality and abortion with the addition of a ban on "so-called partial birth abortions";
Red Bird Missionary
Re-affirming support of the statement on the United Methodist Church and homosexuality in the 1996 Book of Discipline....
Maintaining the current disciplinary provision prohibiting pastors from officiating at same-sex unions.
The conference's Area Task Force on Inclusiveness delivered a report calling for the conference, its boards, agencies and churches to be inclusive and open to all people, not as a strategic plan but as an answer to God's call to the church to be hospitable to all.
"God invites us to share in what God is doing to overcome the barriers of class, disability, age and gender," Bishop Kenneth L. Carder said. "God is calling us to a new vision of hospitality."
The Tennessee members adopted the plan, but rejected an effort from the floor to include sexual orientation.
Western North Carolina
Approved several petitions to General Conference: requesting the retention of paragraphs affirming the denominations stance on homosexuality.
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