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UM Global Agency To Promote Homosexuality With Personal Testimony Event

Personal testimonies to highlight conversation on homosexuality

Nov. 5, 1999

News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York 10-21-28-71B{593}

By United Methodist News Service

Personal testimonies by six people who have either left the United Methodist Church or challenged its laws because of their convictions will highlight an upcoming "conversation on homosexuality."

Sponsored by the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the event will take place at Techny Towers Conference Center in suburban Chicago, beginning at noon Nov. 16 and concluding at 3 p.m. Nov. 17.

Planners of "In Disagreement Charity: A Conversation on Homosexuality" stress that the event is intended to promote a candid dialogue and discussion among participants instead of a debate.

The Rev. Bruce Robbins, the agency's chief executive, said the commission realized "the pain surrounding the issue of homosexuality lies with people on both ends of the spectrum. Those voices badly need to be heard by the church."

The focus will be on listening. "We're not interested in people arguing with each other about the rightness and wrongness of Scripture and homosexuality," he added.

Discussion will be triggered by the testimonies of six people who, as an act of conscience, have either left the church because of what they considered permissive or prohibitive attitudes toward homosexuality or have challenged its laws by performing same-sex union ceremonies, withholding required financial support or taking other actions.

"The commission wishes to create an 'open space' where witnesses can share their testimonies and discussion participants can speak candidly about their life experience and the ways in which this experience has shaped their deeply held beliefs about homosexuality," according to the purpose statement for the event.

"The commission hopes to help people discern how God may be at work within United Methodism even amidst our disunity, struggles, conflicts and controversy," the statement continued.

Identities of the six who will testify are being withheld until the event. Other participants will include 10 members of the commission's board of directors; 20 annual (regional) conference delegation members to the denomination's 2000 General Conference next May; 10 people engaged in interreligious work at the annual conference level; and six United Methodist bishops.

Observers are welcome to attend but will not be part of the official discussions.

The Rev. Betty Gamble, a commission executive, said they invited all United Methodists "to join us in a prayer that the Holy Spirit will give us the mind of Christ as we meet and that the church will be able to discern God's will."

More information is available by calling the commission office, (212) 749-3553.

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