United Methodists Retain Stance on Homosexuality

I don’t know why I am posting on this. I have said elsewhere I don’t like talking about this subject. I agree with John at Come to the Waters, the whole debate is frustrating. And it looks like it will be still. Yesterday in Fort Worth, Texas, the United Methodist Church voted to retain its stance on homosexuality (albeit by a much slimmer margin). Something feels different this year. Not the discussion itself. Methodist Blogger Eric Helms commented that as he watched, the debates and arguments haven’t changed since four years ago and we haven’t learned to listen to each other. Watching the live streaming video last night, I agreed with him. In past years, I have celebrated the decisions to stand firm for the traditional language. This year, I don’t know. I don’t think this is an issue to celebrate.

As the big blue screen with the instructions came up to tell delegates to hit ‘”1″ for yes’ and ‘”2″ for no’, I didn’t know what I wanted the outcome to be. The language proposed did not advocate a change of stance on the issue (i.e., it was not calling for an acceptance of homosexuality), but an admittance that we are simply divided on the issue. [Matthew Johnson at The World is My Parish has the reading as it was adopted last night and the language that was in the 2004 Discipline. The proposed text originally coming out of the committee can be found here.] I haven’t changed my personal stance on homosexuality (though I think it has softened), but I have learned over the years that, as the initial report stated, ‘Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness.’ I no longer see those who disagree with me (or even homosexuals) as people who cannot be Christians and are destructive to the Church. I could not help but be pained by watching those so disappointed by the outcome. One of the images that I think will stay with me is the woman wearing a rainbow scarf who got to the microphone and in a cracked and broken voice requested Bishop Whitaker (Florida Annual Conference) to pray. I don’t know if there is anything I could have said to the woman or anyone else so disappointed, especially since I still hold the view that homosexual practices to be ‘incompatible’. I guess I like to think I could. If I can’t, I won’t celebrate any ‘victory’.

Perhaps it was time to acknowledge that we simply do not agree, and the 55-45 margin may indicate that we are more conflicted than in previous years. Maybe the new language could change the debate into a conversation. I don’t know, and for at least another four years, we won’t.

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4 thoughts on “United Methodists Retain Stance on Homosexuality

  1. I have similar feelings, Will. The closeness of the vote is not an indication that the UMC is becoming more “liberal’ (or whatever y’call it) on this issue, but that we’re tired of fighting over this every four years. Many otherwise “conservative” (or whatever y’call it) people feel that the neutral language would be helpful in fostering unity.

  2. I don’t claim to know either why you’re posting this, Will, but I think I have a pretty good idea as to why: you’re trying to be faithful in confronting a difficult (to say the least) conversation!As a Presbyterian (aren’t all of us mainliners facing these painful questions) lesbian in the ordination process, I appreciate this post very much. Thoughtful indeed, brother.
    Christ’s peace,
    Meg

  3. Pam: Thank you.

    Craig: I hope you’re correct and that there is a move to fostering unity and wanting to talk to each other. I have no desire to see Methodists break down like the Anglican communion. I also hope that this may indicate the decline of the IRD (I find them intolerable).

    Meg: Thank you for your comment. I realise it can’t but be painful, but I wonder if it could be a little less so (see my IRD comment to Craig above). Despite Eddie Fox’s pleasant and humble manner when presenting the minority report (which, I realise, may be up for debate), one can’t help separate him from the awful language coming from the renewal groups in some of the daily postings. Thank you, again.

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