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Pro-homosexuality Bishops And AMARites Refuse To Leave Conference In Light Of Rejection Of Homosexuality, Others Flee Arrest


CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE

One from Bruce Pettit and Another from Gary Keene

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30 Invade Conference Floor, Risk Arrest

By Bruce Pettit Bethany UMC, San Francisco

In one of the great defiances in Methodist history, about 30 members of the AMAR coalition risked arrest today by marching onto the floor of General Conference after it was clear that the church's anti-LGBT position was certain to stand.

After the General Conference reaffirmed the statement in the Book of Discipline that states homosexuality is "incompatible with Chrstian teaching" by a vote of 65.1 to 34.9 percent, about 50 AMAR people marched down the center aisle from the back of the huge auditorium to the front and refused to leave.

Sue Laurie from Edinboro, Pa., and Randy Miller of Bethany UMC in San Francisco, designated spokespersons for the protesters, told then-presiding Bishop Dan Solomon of Louisville that the group wished to address the body. The body of delegates agreed in a clear show of hands. The demand of the group was calling for a moratorium for the next four years on all language in the Disicpline that addresses homosexality. If it was not issued by the body, the protesters would have to be removed non-violently from the convention hall.

About 20 of AMAR people left the area to avoid arrest upon Solomon's request for them to leave, but the others remained.

Bishop Solomon called for a 20-minute recess of the assembly. He asked all delegates to leave the floor. The protesters stayed behind, as well as scores of delegates who support AMAR. About ten bishops also stayed, and joined the protesters slightly behind them, as the remaining body sang a number of church liberation songs -- "We Shall Overcome," "We Are Marching in the Light of God," "Amazing Grace," and others -- during the recess.

About 100 people marched around the balcony with stoles made to honor people rejected for ordination during the "incompatible" debate, and joined the singing.

Solomon appealed to the bishops who were standing on stage behind the protesters -- apparently seeking their help in finding a solution.

About 30 minutes into the recess, Solomon called the body together -- and conveyed the demands. The group was willing to risk arrest for trespassing, he said. They wanted consideration of a moratorium. If that did not happen, or if it did and it failed, the group would stay until this General Conference adjourned, or until they were physcially removed.

The General Assembly agreed by 65.4 percent to let them stay for consideration of a moratorium, which was presented by Richard Parker of the New York Conference. He said a moratorim would "enable the church to have a time of healing in this quadrennium." But Roger Elliott of the North Carolina Conference said a moratorium would be "an act of cowardice."

After about a half-hour discussion on a moratorium, it failed, 33.4 percent to 66.6%.

Following that defeat, the General Conference considered keeping language that LGBT people not be considered for ordination. It passed 66.9 to 33.1 percent.

Karen Oliveto of Bethany in San Francisco -- speaking as a reserve delegate -- told the body that if the moratorium does not pass, she must return home to a church that will grieve with deep wounds. She noted the people willing to risk arrest. She said that, metaphorically, "the church has already put them under arrest. We are already in jail."

But Mark Finshtermacher of the North Indiana Conference said the church at times must live in paradox: "We need to be a people of grace; but we also need to be a people of truth."

The church was to return to plenary session at 2:30pm EST.

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Newsflash at 10:55am Eastern Standard Time by Gary Keene, Rocky Mountain Conference staff:

The Legislative Committee on Faith and Order is in the midst of bringing their report: a resolution to retain the current wording of the Discipline, declaring that "Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" was just adopted 628 in favor, 337 against. As the next resolution was being presented (to prohibit gay pesons from being ordained) delegates and other protestors to these actions circled the floor, standing in silent witness.

Presiding Bishop Dan Solomon graciously recognized their witness, let it stand for a brief period, and then asked those who were not members of the Conference to go up to the balcony (visitor's seating.) No one moved: a representative asked for two minutes to address the body. By rule, the Bishop could not grant that without the permission of the body: he called for a vote by hand, and the request was granted. Two persons spoke briefly, calling for a four year moritorium on any and all application of those sections of the Discipline having to do with homosexuality, and stating that the delegates of the church had broken faith with the claim to being "one Body in Christ."

The Bishop continued a response that was gracious yet firm, saying, "Once again I am asking you to leave," so that indeed the body could consider the request: the protestors stood their ground. After a few moments of conversation betwen the chair and the protestor's spokespersons, the Bishop declared that the session was in recess. While many delegates rose to leave the auditorioum, protestors and many delegates remained to sing the civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome someday...

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