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California/Pacific "Spiritual Discernment" Practiced At Conference Receives Spirit of Homosexuality

Rev John -

Attached is a copy of the Cal-Pac update which I wanted to pass on to you.

Basically, The California Pacific Annual Conference has supported the pro-homosexuality stand by passing resolutions to the General Conference to remove the restrictive language in the Social Disipline that refers to homosexuals.

I am sad to say, I was there as a delegate for College United Methodist Church. I am heartened that more seem to be opposing this that last year.

Sincerely - Bill Maddox

June 22, 1999 -- Volume 3, Number 16
A recap of the latest news for California-Pacific Annual Conference United Methodists

WE'RE BAAAACK -- Wow, what an Annual Conference -- five days at Redlands and dozens of complex issues to resolve. And now comes the hard part (at least for the Communication's Commission)-- putting together all that happened and make it all make sense. Where to begin? We know your dying to hear the names of those elected to next year's General and Jurisdictional Conferences. And then there are the awards -- two laity of the year, plus dozens of other folks honored by the Conference. And what about all those resolutions? And the ordination service, the retirement service, the Habitat For Humanity house, and all the rest?'re going to have to wait for some of it. This is also a Circuit West deadline week and the latest issue is due in Dallas for printing on Wednesday. So...we're putting on line the first of several news releases that have just gone out telling the United Methodist Community some highlights of Annual Conference. The first release covers the three biggest issues dealt with -- homosexuality, the question of what to do with the Pacific Homes Fund, and the JCC+ reorganization proposal we've been telling you about for months. Read on, here's the news release:

California-Pacific Conference Relies On Spiritual Discernment To Resolve Thorny Issues

The reliance on spiritual discernment as a model for conflict resolution has once again helped the California-Pacific Annual Conference resolve at least three controversial issues facing United Methodists in Southern California, Hawaii, Guam and Siapan.

Meeting at Redlands University June 16-20, the Annual Conference called for an end to the denomination's prohibition against homosexual unions (and the church's prohibition against ordination of homosexuals as ministers); agreed to move forward with a controversial plan to restructure the Conference; and reached consensus on the use of nearly $10 million recently returned to the Conference from a re-financing agreement with Pacific Homes.

It was the second Annual Conference in a row using spiritual discernment (as opposed to parliamentary procedure) to resolve complex issues. Last year, the Conference, faced with declaring itself either a "Reconciling" or a "Transforming" Conference, as the terms relate to homosexuality, used the process to declare itself a "Welcoming" Conference instead.

As explained by Cal-Pac Conference Bishop, Roy I. Sano, "Spiritual discernment is asking, "What is God's will for us? It asks the participants to be open to the prompting of God's spirit, and to trust that God can truly work within us without using traditional means of voting."

During the five-day Conference, members met in small groups, engaged in prayerful consideration of the issues involved, and opened themselves to listening for the voice of God.

Once again the most controversial issue facing the Conference revolved around homosexuality, same sex marriages and the ordination of homosexuals as United Methodist clergy.

At the heart of the issue were three resolutions to petition next year's General Conference to delete language relating to homosexual unions and ministers from the Church's "The Book Of Discipline."

The first of the three would delete the sentence "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."

A second resolution to petition would delete a sentence which reads, "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all."

The petition would have the general Church substitute the sentence "Although Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexuality with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all."

A third resolution would delete a sentence in "The Discipline" which reads, "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."

The new "Discipline" passage would be amended would read, "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."

If accepted and passed by the General Conference, the three resolutions would end the denomination's long-standing prohibition against homosexual marriages and would allow the ordination of clergy who are homosexuals.

United Methodist clergy would also be allowed to conduct same sex unions in the denomination's churches throughout the world.

The Conference also passed a fourth resolution challenging the General Conference body to use the new models of "discernment" on the question of homosexuality, similar to those used by the Conference.
Even though the Conference "overwhelmingly" supported all four resolutions, the discernment process and the resulting resolutions were not without their critics.

In the closing moments of the Conference Session, a motion was approved calling for a United Methodist Judicial Council review of whether the discernment process could legally be used (as opposed to parliamentary procedure) to arrive at a consensus of opinion and express the will of the Conference body.

A review of the discernment process is expected within several months. If upheld by the Judicial Council, the three resolutions would be submitted for action by the General Conference next May. If the Council rules against the process, the resolutions would be nullified.

The issue of what to do with nearly $10 million returned to the Conference from a loan made nearly 20 years ago to shore-up the then bankrupt Pacific Homes was also submitted to the discernment process.

Since most of the money was raised by Conference local churches, many voices supported a return of the money to each local church contributing to the original loan. Other voices called for use of what was described as "a windfall to the Conference" to be used to develop new ministries and finance the building of new local churches. A proposal to donate the entire fund to UMCOR for use in Kosovo Refugee resettlement was also placed before the Conference.

Following the rules of discernment and attempting to hear God's will for the funds, members agreed on three recommendations coming out of the discernment process.

Members said the Conference should keep the Pacific Homes Fund intact as an endowment of the Conference and that 20 percent of its earnings be added each year to the principal.

The Conference also authorized Bishop, Roy I. Sano, to appoint and convene an ad hoc committee to "develop a plan for the naming, management and use of the endowment and to work to find a fair way to return the money to the churches who originally give it while also funding evangelization/missional ministries and other ministry settings of the Conference."

Finally, the Conference authorized the new committee to "make interim decisions during the year between 1999 and 2000 to use up to 50 percent of the earnings of the fund for missional/evangelization emergency needs within the Annual Conference."

The discernment process was also applied to a controversial proposal calling for restructure and reorganization of the Conference.

The proposal, the result of two years work of the Conference Joint Council For Coordination "Plus" (JCC+), called for reorganization of the Conference around some other model than the current Council On Ministries structure.

After several sessions of discernment, members rejected several restructuring alternatives presented, including an alternative saying no change was needed in the organization in order to carry out the Conference's calling.

When the dust had settled, the Conference said a new Consultation Team should be convened to consult with local churches and other local ministries about the JCC+ proposal and the feedback on the JCC+ Plan that was given in the various discernment sessions. The new Committee, half of which would be selected from the original JCC+ body, would then bring the 2000 Annual Conference a revised proposal.

MORE COMING -- We'll be back with much more on Annual Conference within a few days (just as quickly as Circuit West is completed). So...need we add, stay tuned.

WE'D LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU -- This news digest is free to anyone looking for the latest news and information on the California-Pacific Annual Conference. There is no subscription fee. It is published weekly by the Communication Commission of the California-Pacific Annual Conference. To subscribe, FAX or E-mail James Johnson, Editor, Circuit West, with your E-mail address;, or (818) 551-1539 (FAX). Johnson may also be reached by calling the Conference Center in Pasadena, (626) 568-7329.

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