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Briefing previews General Conference issues

 
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7:00 A.M. ET Jan. 25, 2012 | TAMPA, Fla.



The Rev. Jay Williams (left) listens during a panel discussion about clergy effectiveness at The United Methodist Church's pre-General Conference news briefing at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida. With him are the Revs. Tom Choi (center) and Amy Gearhart. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
The Rev. Jay Williams (left) listens during a panel discussion about clergy effectiveness at The United Methodist Church's Pre-General Conference news briefing at the Tampa Convention Center in Florida. With him are the Revs. Tom Choi (center) and Amy Gearhart. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
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Editor’s note: This is a look at issues explored at a recent Pre-General Conference News Briefing in Tampa, Fla. A separate story, Preview to church restructuring debate, focuses on the proposal to restructure the church.

Diverse issues presented at a recent three-day briefing signaled the workload ahead for the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets this spring.

More than 300 delegates, communicators and others who will be part of the 2012 General Conference met Jan. 19-21 at the Tampa Convention Center, site of the legislative assembly, for a preview of some of the issues they will face April 24-May 4. United Methodist Communications sponsored the event, with involvement and support from other agencies and ministries of the church. This is a brief look at the issues explored.

Leading vital congregations

Proposed changes to the ordination process will eliminate guaranteed appointments, streamline the ordination process and sharpen the focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, said members of the Study of Ministry Commission in their presentation on clergy effectiveness proposals.

The Rev. Jay Williams, pastor of Glendale United Methodist Church, Everett, Mass., endorsed the plan, which would eliminate the commissioning step, create an orientation to ministry and require conferences to have vocational discernment coordinators.

Guaranteed appointments were introduced in the 1956 Book of Discipline as a way to protect women who received the rights to become ordained at that General Conference, said the Rev. Tom Choi, Hawaii District superintendent, California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference.

“Racism and sexism haven’t gone away, but we’re in a different place than we were 56 years ago,” Choi said.

Leadership needs to be creative and nimble, said the Rev. Amy Gearhart, senior pastor of Missouri United Methodist Church, Columbia, Mo. She said security of appointment for elders in good standing has become a “barrier to mission.”

In 2010, the United Methodist Sustainability Advisory Group released a report saying there are 784 more pastors than appointments in the denomination. Clergy retirements by 2013 will leave drastically low numbers, if younger clergy are not recruited and encouraged.

Set-aside bishop

Bishop Larry Goodpaster, current Council of Bishops president, discussed the proposal to create a “set-aside bishop” without residential responsibilities.

“It is nearly impossible to be president of the Council of Bishops and lead an episcopal area,” he said.

Some delegates questioned whether a new bishop position, along with the elimination of guaranteed appointments, would shift too much power to the bishops.

Goodpaster emphasized that the General Conference will still be the only voice that speaks for the entire denomination and bishops will remain bound by The United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Ethnic initiatives

Representatives of the United Methodist ethnic/racial ministries asked news-briefing participants to see and hear them because often they feel “invisible.”



The Rev. Francisco Cañas introduces speakers during a breakfast with leaders of The United Methodist Church’s ethnic initiatives, which coordinate efforts to draw more people of color into the denomination.
The Rev. Francisco Cañas introduces speakers during a breakfast with leaders of The United Methodist Church’s ethnic initiatives.
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The denomination’s ethnic initiatives help start new churches and cultivate new leaders to draw more people of color into The United Methodist Church.

 “It is our mission to be the church for all people and to bring the great news to each in their own language,” said the Rev. Francisco Cañas, speaking for the ethnic/racial ministries. Cañas is national coordinator of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

The group expressed concerns with a proposed restructure of The United Methodist Church, which includes a plan to consolidate nine of the denomination’s 13 general agencies into a new United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry.

The ethnic initiatives said there was little or no consultation with them about the new structure proposed by the Interim Operations Team, which developed the restructure proposal endorsed by the Connectional Table and Council of Bishops. The Connectional Table drafted the legislation.

“We should have some direct say-so about where we are placed and financed,” said the Rev. Fred A. Allen, national director of Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.

“Pacific Islanders will give their last dollar before they see a church die,” said Monalisa Tui'tahi, executive director of the Pacific Islanders National Plan. “We need your partnership to be part of the family.”

Representatives of the United Methodist Council on Korean American Ministries, Asian American Language Ministry, and Native American Comprehensive Plan also spoke.

Trail of repentance and healing

“What if your greatest hope was also your greatest fear?”

The Rev. Anita Phillips, executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan, softly asked that question and stilled the room of General Conference delegates, communicators and agency staff.

An Act of Repentance and Healing for Indigenous Persons will be part of 2012 General Conference on April 27.



A ceremonial space honoring indigenous people by artist Bob Haozous graces the Riverwalk in Tampa, Fla. The United Methodist Church is planning an “Act of Repentance and Healing for Indigenous Persons,” during its 2012 General Conference.
A ceremonial space honoring indigenous people by artist Bob Haozous graces the Riverwalk in Tampa, Fla. The United Methodist Church is planning an “Act of Repentance and Healing for Indigenous Persons,” during its 2012 General Conference.
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“I have two identities. I am a Christian, and I am Native American,” said Phillips.

“It is with fear and trembling that I say, ‘yes,’ repentance is possible, and it can be genuine and honest.”

Not far from the Tampa Convention Center, where the legislative assembly of nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world will meet, is a marker in honor of the remains of a small Native American tribe uncovered when the center was constructed in 1987.

“A temple mound stood five stories high and existed before the time of Christ,” said the Rev. Stephen Sidorak, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. Tampa was also the deportation center for Native Americans and African slaves, he said. 

“We have to repent of what we have done and what we have left undone,” Sidorak said.

The committee working on the service has been to the Philippines and other places to gather stories from indigenous persons “wherever United Methodism has spread its blanket on the land,” Phillips said.

“My hope rests in Christ. I claim you as a brother or sister in Christ and ask that you claim me as a representative of the Native American nation,” she said. “It is one of the most important things you will do at this General Conference.”

Worldwide nature of the church

A 20-member Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church considered how to forge deeper connections, establish greater local authority and create a more equitable sharing of power and representation, reported Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones, who chaired the committee.

The process included consultation with United Methodists from around the world.

 “Part of what we heard everywhere was … a desire to have greater equality across the church,” said the Rev. Cathy Stengel, a district superintendent from the Upper New York Annual Conference.

The Rev. Forbes Matonga of Zimbabwe, the committee vice chair, said the denomination must make some changes to bind its members together. “As we were listening, it was very clear that people we met want to remain United Methodist,” he added.

Central conferences outside the United States have the right to adapt the Book of Discipline for their own use, but “nobody knows what is adaptable and what isn’t,” Jones pointed out. The committee has submitted legislation to solve that problem.

The committee’s other legislative petitions focus on the duties of general agencies to be responsive to the world church and continued conversations about a global model for the denomination.

Changes to clergy pensions

General Conference will consider two proposals that would change clergy pensions, shifting more of the risk in retirement preparation from annual conferences to individual clergy.



Mike Bella (left) and the Rev. Maidstone Mulenga join in worship during The United Methodist Church's pre-General Conference news briefing. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Mike Bella (left) and the Rev. Maidstone Mulenga join in worship during The United Methodist Church's Pre-General Conference news briefing. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
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The United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits is asking the denomination’s top lawmaking body to choose between the two options. The first would combine a defined benefit component with a defined contribution component, like the clergy’s current retirement program but with a reduced benefit for clergy and, consequently, a lower contribution for conferences. The second option would be a defined contribution-only plan.

A defined benefit plan provides a monthly pension payment for life, with the employer assuming the bulk of the investment risk. A defined contribution plan — like the 401(k) plans most corporate employees now have — provides an account balance to use during retirement, with the clergyperson assuming most of the risk that the money will not run out in his or her lifetime.

The pension board recommends the first option, which combines a reduced defined benefit component with a defined contribution component.

Either option would reduce the costs to conferences overall by about 15 percent.

“We have a theology of hope, but we try not to build that into our actuarial projections,” said Barbara Boigegrain, the pension board’s top executive.

The proposed changes would not reduce benefits for retired clergy that already are being paid or reduce what active clergy have already earned.

Church budget

As the U.S. economy improves, more than 40 percent of United Methodist congregations “describe their financial health as good or excellent,” reported John Goolsbey, a staff executive with the denomination’s Council on Finance and Administration.

Still, all levels of the church responded to the recession, he said, by cutting staff, freezing salaries and re-aligning ministries. The downturn affected church endowments and savings, capital projects and giving to mission work.

At General Conference, the finance and administration agency’s main task will be to present a proposed church budget for 2013-16. The agency also submitted 43 petitions.

To facilitate the budget process, the agency established an economic advisory committee, which created three economic scenarios and worked with the projections of denominational agencies, explained the Rev. Pat Youngquist, staff executive.

At $603 million, the recommended budget reflects general reductions of 6.6 percent and marks the first time a budget smaller than that for the previous quadrennium will be presented.

The World Service Fund represents 52 percent of the budget, at $311.6 million. Other categories are Ministerial Education, $105.6 million; Episcopal (the bishops), $90.3 million; General Administration, $8.2 million; Black College, $42.1 million; Africa University, $9.4 million; and Interdenominational Cooperation, $8.2 million.

“Great ministries cannot be done without your support for the apportionments,” A. Moses Kumar, top staff executive of the Council on Finance and Administration, reminded the delegates.

Holy conversation

Leading a session on “Holy Conversation about Challenging Issues,” Minnesota Area Bishop Sally Dyck said, “For many people, General Conference is dread-full.

“As a people of The United Methodist Church, we can demonstrate a more excellent way.”

Holy conferencing, or holy conversation, she said, “sets a tone for respectful dialogue and relationship building.”  The goal is to have dialogue instead of debate and to find consensus around important matters rather than have “winners” and “losers.”



Minnesota Area Bishop Sally Dyck speaks about the importance of “holy conversation,” about contentious issues.
Minnesota Area Bishop Sally Dyck speaks about the importance of “holy conversation” about contentious issues.
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“We do more political conferencing than holy conferencing,” declared the Rev. Mike Slaughter, lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, Tipp City, Ohio. Paraphrasing John 16:13, he expressed hope that “the Holy Spirit will lead to things to come.”

The Rev. Bruce W. Robbins, pastor of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, agreed. “The challenge of holy conversation can be a source of frustration and despair,” he said. He cited the dilemma of being asked to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies and the two covenants to which he is called — “as an ordained clergy and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News, said he experienced holy conferencing in the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference’s study of homosexuality and called it “next to impossible at General Conference.”

While some issues may seem impossible to resolve, he said, “it is important to remember how we treat one another, with respect and understanding. Holy conferencing allows us to talk about our deeply held convictions and the reasons we hold them.”

Erin Hawkins, who leads the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, said, “We are tasked with sustaining a difficult conversation every day.

“Holy conversation is a commitment to see equity, participation and access to participation.”

Approaching General Conference, said the Rev. Stephanie Hixon, it is normal to feel anxious and somewhat fearful. She is co-executive director of the denomination’s JustPeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation.

“My prayer,” she said, “is that we may know God’s embrace is strong enough, wide enough and tender enough to carry the important conversations that are put before us.”

Asked what they hope to experience about holy conversation from presiding bishops, other delegates and themselves, panel participants listed courage, fairness and respect, honesty, humility and openness to others in the Spirit.

“Will General Conference be dread-full or will it be hopeful?” Dyck asked the audience. “It’s up to you.”

Worship

Gathering participants with rousing, contemporary music was the worship team from Van Dyke United Methodist Church, Lutz, Fla.

In his sermon, the Rev. Tom Albin, dean of the Upper Room for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, focused on the importance of prayer before, during and after General Conference.

“We need the church united in prayer,” he said.

He introduced a resource, “50 Days of Prayer Before & During General Conference 2012.” Electronic communication will make it possible for every local congregation in every part of the world to pray with and for the 988 delegates. Using the Internet and free, downloadable files, every United Methodist will be able to read the same Scripture, share the same insights and pray the same prayer for 40 days before General Conference as well as pray through each day of the conference, April 24 through May 4.

“I know if we listen and God speaks, there will be transformation,” Albin said. “God can answer in amazing ways.”

Preaching on the second day of the news briefing, the Rev. Francisco Cañas challenged participants to find “new forms of being the church.”

Calling for diversity, he said, “To continue perpetuating the old rule of inviting only the people we know, who look and behave like us, will not produce the vitality and diversity that by nature belongs to God’s kingdom.

“As United Methodist people, we find the solid ground of our mission in God’s trust, love and compassion for the entire breadth of humankind.”

*Linda Bloom, Joey Butler, Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Kathy Gilbert and Heather Hahn contributed to this report.

News contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 52 comments

  • Halneff 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    TrulyblessedLGBTdisciple:    This has been a most enlightening conversation.  As I review the previous posts I do see that you are on a mission, and in your terms there will be a re-newal..   The Lutherans have been re-newed; The presbyterians have been re-newed; now it is the UMC's turn to be re-newed!   By you, of course.

    Since we are quoting memorable phrases----"knock yourself out!"

    I do not see that we have anything more to discuss; we do understand what is going on!

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff, it is called COURAGE.  Courage to speak up publicly about a topic, a taboo topic of LGBTQ equality in the UMC to be specific, especially knowing there are people out there like you, who are not only afraid, but are willing to discriminate, exclude, and spew angry words against good Christian people trying to openly serve God, just because you do not approve of how they lead their personal life.   Yes, I am on a mission; a mission to serve God and my neighbor, just like He asks. You wouldn't know anything about that though, because as you stated, you're puzzled and just guessing.  After all those years in the UMC and you are not sure of what God wants and expects of you. What were you doing every Sunday?  Keep praying and asking God for answers.  Remember, you keep going through the lesson until you've learned it. 

    We do see eye-to-eye though on something and I bet that just burns you up.  You told me to "go start your own church!" You told me I "had a choice."  I took you up on your suggestion and now you are angry.  I know full well though, that your anger has nothing to do with me.  You're angry and scared that the UMC is finally going to make the needed change to the Book of Discipline and remove the language on homosexuality so they can truly be the church for ALL people, and you don't want your cheese moved. I will sincerely pray for you Halneff that you find the inner peace that those of us who have been fortunately blessed by God many times over, have found. Until we meet again, I remain a TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple.

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    (Edited by a moderator)

  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” Seneca

    "Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Charles Darwin

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  • Halneff 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand


    Truly,  we are all guessing what God is wanting us to do.  I wasn't aware that God had special instructions for us in regard to special people---are some more special than others?   We do not ask questions of any who come through our door.

    I do get the impression that were I to greet you at our West door that you would volunteer the information to me in response to my,  "Good morning, you are very welcome".   Have I met you somewhere before?  You do sound familiar in the way you meet people.

    The advice about conversing with my Gen. Conf. delegate (s) is sound---I plan to do that.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff, no WE are not "all guessing" what God wants us to do.  YOU seem to be guessing what God wants us to do.  I am crystal clear about what God asks and expects of me/us and I have a deep sense of faith, trust, and love for God and the work He asks us to do in His name.  I cannot control your behavior, your completely responsible for your own guessing.  But, again, you are making my point with your questions of, "Are some more special than others?"  Why are LGBTQ people treated differently in the UMC?  Why are they not given the same equality in the Book of Discipline?  So, in answer to your question, yes, some people are being treated as "more special" than others in the UMC.  You are also making my point in asking if God has special instructions for us in regards to "special people".  God asks us to treat our neighbors with the same unconditional love you have for Him, but under the Book of Discipline written and interpreted by man, the UMC does not practice what it preaches. The UMC, through the Book of Discipline, decides who is special and who is not, and what instructions the different "categories" of people are supposed to follow.  I bet you do have your agenda with your General Conference delegate. I can tell through your failure to put your money where your mouth is in your post, that I hit the nail squarely on the head.  Thank you again for showing your support for the causes of the LGBTQ communities through your postings.  Your postings have proven very loud and clear that the UMC is a dying denomination because of outdated, judgmental, and fearful logic.  Don't worry though, I am starting a reNEWed UMC along with many others, gay and straight who are also in the UMC, in the hopes of reviving and reNEWing OUR UMC so it can once again become a vibrant, growing, and truly United Methodist Church; the church for ALL people equally! I remain an extremely Truly Blessed LGBTQ Disciple!

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  • Halneff 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Well, Truly---you got me there.  As I said: we don't know.  You are asking me how I know?  I don't---just guessing and saying that it does not matter.  It is not of concern and we try to welcome all who come through the door.
     
    What does matter is your reply with the comment, "Thanks for the laugh".  That remark is very telling-- you seem not to care what effect this has on other people.
    As I said in an earlier post: start your own church!

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff, you got yourself there. You were just guessing?  Are you also "just guessing" when it comes to what God's expectations and beliefs are for LGBTQ people? If you are sincere in your comment that you are willing to welcome all who come through the door, including LGBTQ people, openly and unconditionally, then tell your General Conference delegate, through your comments that you are making here, that you want the Book of Discipline changed to reflect that.
    Like I said, I am starting a new church, a new UMC where everyone is equal, including LGBTQ people.  Our door is always open.

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  • Halneff 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Truly Blessed:  I guess I don't know if there is/are any LBGTQ persons in our church.  If you are referring to persons who are "Gay or Lesbian" then I would say that there are, and that identification is unknown to us as to who they are---it is not our concern. I am of passing knowledge of the persons in our church: some are single, some have a spouse, children, widowed, widower, in a care facility, live out of town, non-member but come, new member, teen, confirmed,  old-timer, etc.  We don't have a category for LBGTQ.  Should we?

    As you see, I am not  a Pastor nor an employee so my prose may be a bit more direct.  As a Christian person I joined the UMC Church and subscribe to the Biblical teachings and the  Discipline of the UMC Church.  If this Discipline and the interpretation of scripture is changed by action of a General Conference of the UMC, then, am I automatically obligated to embrace this new belief?  As I understand the possible changes being proposed may include LBGTQ acceptance as Clergy and leading positions in the UMC: is that correct?

    The suggestion is that if I am a "Good Christian Person" I will welcome the acceptance of LBGTQ because the Discipline has now been duly modified; therefore, I must adjust my understanding of the Gospels and submit to the new rules in the UMC Discipline.  Does our Faith work that way?

    The suggestion is that this proposed inclusion will be good for the UMC.  How is that so?  Will the Church gain membership?  Will the UMC gain in world-wide recognition and prestige?  What of the people who feel that their faith compels them to leave and go elsewhere?  Does that have weight in this venture?  Are people to be sacrificed to this venture in the name of some greater good?  Is it really a "choice" for them?

    I am puzzled: Why continue in this confrontation with an organization that is not in agreement with the way you think it should be run?  Or, is this about a campaign to correct the "errors" of the UMC?  Would it not be so much easier to found a Church that is just the way you want it to be?  This, too, is a choice!

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff, one of your questions is, "Are people to be sacrificed to this venture in the name of some greater good?" You agree there is a "greater good".  See, we both see eye-to-eye and agree there is a greater good.  Now we're getting somewhere.  Except, you want the "category", oh, I'm sorry, there isn't  a category for the LGBTQ communities, but THEY are the one who you state should be "sacrificed" and told to "go start your own church."  Wow! I have an idea; maybe you can start YOUR own church after you make the willful choice to leave the UMC after they amend the Book of Discipline.  "That is a choice too, right?"  The average age of people in the UMC is 55 or older I believe.  Don't quote me on the specific age but it is up there and I am sure you fit in that category.  You don't mind me using one of your categories to categorize people's ages, do you?  I am taking your advice and I am starting a reNEWed church, a new UMC where EVERYONE is welcomed openly with no language in the UMC Book of Discipline discriminating against anyone from worshipping God openly and unconditionally.  I am starting this reNEWed church by locking arms with all of those other UM people around the world who have been working towards equity for the past 40 plus years in the current UMC, including LGBTQ people.  We are reNEWing our UMC by bringing in a much younger, more energetic, more Christian-minded, more worldly and visionary UM congregation.  You're welcome to stay and be a part of this reNEWed UMC if you'd like.  As I stated earlier, our DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN, that is what being a part of an Open Door Ministry means.  I do owe you another "thank you" though, for reinforcing my point very clearly in your post and for your support of the LGBTQ cause. Oh, by the way, whatever happened to that failing business enterprise you mentioned in an earlier post?

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff, your view of LGBTQ people is a very benighted vision.  "It is not our concern", "That identification is unknown to us as to who they are.", "We don't have a category for LBGTQ, should we?", "Does our faith work that way?", "Are people to be sacrificed to this venture in the name of some greater good?", "Is this really a choice for them?"  You definitely sound puzzled.  This is not a "confrontation" with an organization that is not in agreement with the way "I" think it should be run.  Those who are scared that the UMC is finally getting it right are the ones in confrontation.   The arrogance that people are "categorized", and based upon the "category" they fall into, by your opinion and those who are opposed to ALL of God's children being able to worship God openly and equally, makes me sad for those exposed to that mentality. The General Conference is about making amendments to the "Book of Discipline", but the "Book of Discipline" is written and controlled by (wo)man-judging people.  If I were a betting woman, I'd say there are "GAY and LESBIAN" DELEGATES involved with the General Conference who are growing in numbers and are finally being heard.  If you subscribe to the "Biblical teachings" of the UMC, then you subscribe to ALL the teachings of the UMC.  You do not get to pick and choose what you want to subscribe to and what you don't?  You do not get to tell God what you will or won't do for Him. I take that back, you can by your actions, tell God what you will and won't do for Him, but boy I'd not want to be you on "Judgment Day".  I believe you subscribe to what you believe and disregard anything that frightens you.  The UMC only has SOME people that do not recognize LGBTQ people as people, let alone God's children.  That is why this is being discussed.  The issue of openly and unconditionally accepting LGBTQ communities into the UMC cannot be shoved under a carpet anymore, intimidation isn't working, and I will do everything in my power to continue to be a voice for those communities.  Sorry if you don't like it.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    One last thing Halneff, what does a "Gay or Lesbian" look like?  You say that you have "persons" who are "Gay and Lesbian" but their identification is "unknown to us as to who they are".  If there identification is unknown to you, how can you tell they are "Gay or Lesbian"?  You must have x-ray vision.  What are the prerequisites for "looking Gay or Lesbian"? Maybe some of the prerequisites are being single, some have a spouse, children, widowed, widower, in a care facility, live out of town, non-member but come, new member, teen, confirmed, old-timer, etc.  Thanks for the laugh.

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  • Halneff 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    If we conclude that business principles have nothing to say (teach/guide/) to the Church, then the question must be asked: "To whom or to what do we turn" to get the national UMC, or any local church, to bring vitality and growth to what appears to be a failing enterprise???
    We may say, in answer, that we turn to Christ and his teachings. 
     Are we not following the teachings now?  If we say we are,  then are the teachings faulty?  Or does the fault lie within ourselves?  Perhaps we do have some things to learn from the business world.
    An assumption is that I am talking about money-- I was not and am not, although it is essential.
    Is this about numbers?  Of course it is--every person is important as said in the "Lost Sheep".  It is important that every person is included, everyone is welcome to the fold, and none are driven away.
    The Shepherd's voice is heard and the flock responds; when the voice of the Shepherd is changed the flock may be confused and wander away.  There are many persons in this flock who are believers and disciples, and they have made a vow to the UMC of their support, service, labor and gifts.
    Are we now proposing to change the meaning and extent of their vow?  Are we then expecting them to honor a new code? A new wording of the Discipline? A new interpretation of the Holy Scripture as taught by the UMC? 

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Halneff,  you referenced the following: "Is this about numbers?  Of course it is--every person is important as said in the "Lost Sheep".  It is important that every person is included, everyone is welcome to the fold, and none are driven away."  This could not be a more perfect statement to reinforce that LGBTQ communities should also be welcomed to the fold and not driven away.  Yes, the Church needs money to survive, and yes, an excellent business plan that gets revised periodically to accomodate needed change is required, but that is only part of the business aspect of being able to help the Church survive.  Another aspect needed in business to survive is people.  I agree that the UMC appears to be a failing enterprise.  Could it be failing because the UMC is not practicing what it preaches?  A huge group of people, Christian people who live their life carrying out God's mission, are being turned away because of how SOME people interpret the Scriptures (this statement is partly based upon the responses from some in this forum).  Not only are a great many Christian people being turned away because of the opinions and interpretations of some, there are others who choose not to partake in hypocrisy as they watch the UMC not practice what they preach and turn away good, ethical, Christian people who are as equally deserving of openly belonging to the UMC as anyone else.  You also referenced the following: "when the voice of the Shepherd is changed the flock may be confused and wander away." If people are confused and wander away, help them back.  Clear up their confusion.  If people wander away because of the open invitation of the LGBTQ communities, then it is their CHOICE to wander and it has nothing to do with confusion.  Yes, we are to accept a "new wording of the Discipline." Yes, we are to accept a corrected interpretation of Scripture that treats everyone equally under God and his mission. 

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  • Halneff 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    My name is Hal Neff; I write as a Lay person very concerned about the future of the UMC.  I question the direction this is taking, and I do so as a person who worked in business for most of my life.  The Leadership of an enterprise must have a set of standards that are adhered to, and that leadership should be committed to those standards.
      As in business enterprises--if a person in leadership position cannot support the rules or policy or standards then two choices are at hand.  One is to try to change the "problem rule/standard".  If that is not possible, then recognize that your ethical choice is to leave the organization.
    Changing the rules or standards in this case is the process of changing the Discipline of the UMC.  This effort comes with great hazard to the future of the UMC which, viewing the past 40 years, has not done well.  Where do we think this will go?   See the new effort in The 2092 UMC initiative from the GBOD.  The Call to Action initiative.  Does the Left Hand know what the Right Hand is doing?

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Hal, welcome to the forum.  As a lay person in business myself, I can say that once we start comparing the UMC to business enterprises, it says a couple of things. First, seeing the UMC as a business making business decisions and not a religion focused on God and carrying out His mission is troubling because you are making this about money. That is what businesses do (except not-for-profit), they make money and that is their main focus.  Secondly, even in business, when leadership changes or even if leadership doesn't change, sometimes the focus of the mission changes as the business evolves and you have to be willing to recognize that and make the right changes or the business fails because it became stagnant.  The standards you speak of in the UMC are decided by man-judging people, not God.  Do all businesses in the same industry follow the same set of standards? No.  Evolution does occur. 40 years ago there were many practices followed, in the UMC and other historical practices, that are no longer followed because they were discriminatory, outdated, no longer applicable etc.  There is no argument that can ever outweigh God's love and equal treatment for ALL His creatures. 

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  • Kasbo 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    My name is Karen Booth and I am the Director of Transforming Congregations, one of the denominational renewal ministries that advocates for a traditional biblical understanding of human sexuality and marriage. I've just finished writing a book entitled Forgetting How to Blush: United Methodism's Compromise with the Sexual Revolution. It is being published by Bristol House and will be released the beginning of April

    The roots of our forty year battle over human sexuality go back to the late 50s and early 60s when a variety of Methodist program directors (most of whom were men) decided to compromise with the burgeoning post-Kinsey culture. In the early 1970s, post-Stonewall pro-gay activism was added to the mix; but the confusion began long before that with the
    institutional embrace of value-neutral sexual ethics. "Third Way" (let's all agree to disagree) proponents want us to affirm that kind of approach again, either by writing it into Discipline Paragraph 161F on "Human Sexuality" or the Preamble to the Social Principles. In 2008 they almost succeeded in changing 161F and there will be an even stronger push in that direction again in Tampa.

    I personally doubt that "holy conferencing" will be achieved because our system has been intentionally manipulated by wealthy and politically powerful pro-gay "outsider" groups. Five years ago the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force targeted three Mainline denominations for major “makeover” efforts – the Presbyterian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The United Methodist Church. These three were specifically chosen because of their democratic decision-making processes and their national/international scope.

    A handful of foundations responded to the report by pouring millions of dollars into the pro-gay religious effort. The Reconciling Ministries Network has been a major recipient of this largesse; since 2006 their annual donations have doubled to nearly $1 million. The results? Two of the three targeted denominations – Presbyterian and Lutheran – now approve ordination of sexually active homosexuals. The UMC is the only one to have held out. So far.

    I realize that all the above potentially sounds like a conspiracy theory. But my book documents all the facts. You can read an excerpt about the “outsider” influence on the Good News Magazine website - http://goodnewsmag.org/2012/01...

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Kasbo, The plight of LGBTQ communities should not be exploited and unfortunately there are too many agendas that do just that. While writing a book is not an easy task and I commend you for your desire and efforts, I feel there are better venues for promoting it. The fact that there is support on multiple levels for the equal rights of the LGBTQ community sounds like those who "do not approve" are getting scared that the world is finally realizing that being a LBGTQ is not really a big deal anymore, just like being an African American or a working, voting, outspoken, head-of-household woman is no longer a big deal either. There are anti-gay organizations throwing tons of money around too. I guarantee there are LGBTQ in your life somewhere that are exemplary Christian people doing God's work. The Presbyterians and Lutherans are repenting for their sins. The United Methodist Church is not "holding out", they will finally come to terms that they were wrong for not practicing what they preach and treating the LGBTQ community as if they were lepers when they are God's children. Your right, sounds like the conspiracy theory jitters to me. God does not make mistakes.

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  • Bob Brooke 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    The truth, Truly, is that the Bible's oppostion to homosexual intercourse is pervasive and absolute. There are no voices in Scripture supporting any form of homosexual intercourse under any circumstance at any time, no exceptions for certain alleged non-exploitative forms of homosexual practice and no indication that homosexual intercourse is anything other, at least, than a very bad form of misconduct. The level of the Bible's opposition to homosexual practice exceeds that of any opposition in all the writings of history.  What the Bible does support is the complementarity of male-female bonds and the universal restriction of acceptable sexual intercourse to that between one man and one woman in marriage.

    All the arguments you use, Truly, in attempting to overturn Scripture's expicit teaching against homosexual intercourse have never worked and will never work for Christians who follow God's will and intention as revealed in Scripture.  To insist that God can't deny homosexualists and gay activists, like yourself, you must ignore instances where the church condemns sexual expressions such as incest, bestiality, adultery and prostitution.  More than that, you must also put down God's view of Scripture and replace it with your own. 

    It's finally our choice: Do we disregard God's will and intention as revealed in Scripture and live out our sexuality however we want, or do we accept God's righteous will for our sexuality and live it out as for His glory?

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

     
     Bob, My name is Elisabeth, a.k.a Truly.  I do not hide behind a user name as I am proud to be who I am, and the justice and equity that I stand for.  I do not attempt to overturn Scripture.  You tell me why the United Methodist Church is so divided on the issue?  How is it that so many people, Methodist people, who have studied the Bible and know the Scriptures well, say otherwise?  I don't begrudge you for believing what you do, because at the end of the day, you have to answer to God for your actions, just as I do.  Too bad you weren't at MY MUMC for yesterday's sermon.  It talked about both John and Charles Wesley, but we focused on Charles.  The sermon was regarding "knowledge and vital piety", and somehow people divide the two when they should be joined.  People such as yourself and those who oppose LGBTQ communities seem to pick and choose when they want to be a true Christian.  The hyper-focus on your interpretation of the Scriptures is blinding.  Wesleyan Methodist beliefs are supposed to emphasize grace, not judgment, and unfortunately this is where the hypocrisy of some Methodists is glaringly displayed.  Bringing the "mind and the mission of Christ" together is something that people who are contradictory and inconsistent in their faith, find a hard time carrying out.  It seems they can only focus on one aspect of knowledge and vital piety. The Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, a Methodist Pastor, confirms in one of her sermons, "the balance of progressing towards spiritual holiness through spiritual disciplines and study; AND the actual practice of love, justice, peace, mercy, and reconciliation in the world, exemplified in Jesus' life on earth" was obviously something that was a struggle even in Wesley's day.   Rev. Ingram Schindler continues saying, "And of course, as Methodists, we believe all of this, the spiritual and the physical, the inward and the outward, the mind and the body, the heart and the hands, takes place in community, not in isolation."  Community includes the LGBTQ communities, not just the communities you decide should be included.  Closed hearts and closed minds lead to closed doors, and this is something that is polar opposite to the Methodist mission statement.  Speaking of homosexuality in the same context as incest, bestiality, adultery, and prostitution is a huge indicator of ignorance on many levels.  Nowhere have I stated that God can't deny homosexuals and gay activists.  God can deny anyone, but when He does, He does so through His judgment, not yours. There appears to be some confusion in your belief of which actions God is actually judging.   My statement that I am truly blessed in my life goes to my point that if God was truly against who I am and how I carry out my life, I don't think He would bestow all those blessing on me.  The difference is, that I am truly humbled by His love and the fact that He loves me THAT much to give me so many blessings in my life.  I know though, that He isn't giving it to me to horde, He is giving it me to share, and I do, every chance I get, even with my enemies.  The mind is a terrible thing to waste.   I remain a TrulyBlessed LGBTQ advocate. 

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  • pastortims 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    A very wise and spiritually centered "seasoned" citizen at a church I served put the principle of "holy conferencing" in clear perspective when she said "It's like this in the UMC. Everybody gets a say but not everybody is gonna' get their way." My experience with "holy conferencing" is while the principle sounds good and I support the idea, the implementation of it is nearly always dictated and controlled by those in charge......for truly holy conferencing, we need to eliminate all individuals with ideological and political agendas from leading/directing/controlling the conferencing. Otherwise, we're just spinning our wheels. I know that sounds pessimistic but my 30 years of watching these "holy conferences" has jaded my optimism on how they operate. God Bless.

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  • leddleman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    It is amazing thing that we do frame a discussion of one issue within the code-word "holy conversation".  Should not all of our speech and interaction be holy conversation as Rev. Dyck so eloquently describes?  Someone once said (paraphrased), "God is surely less concerned about the outcome of our meetings, conferences, conversations than He is in the manner of them."  I would surely hope that if the UMC errs in any way, it is on the side of love and grace.

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  • Tom Bettes 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The comments on budget are interesting. I believe that we should be a tithing church. We should work with our congregations to tithe. The church should tithe to the conference. That way we all have a stake in how many people we bring into our congregations and how they respond. Apportionments are killing the church.

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  • StrugglingtostayUM 7 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

     “Holy conversation is a commitment to see equity, participation and access to participation.”  At what point do we allow all to participate.  We all know we pick and choose what we read and follow in the Bible - I believe Jesus is the head of the church and that gives me equal access as a female.  Others would say I am female go sit down and shut up.  That said, I also believe there are guidelines we are expected to follow.  Would you accept your minister having an affair?  Or stealing from the collection? Jesus says those without sin cast the first stone but he said go and sin no more.  What is sin anymore?  Apparently the UMC no longer wants to call anything sin.  So where do we draw the line and I am honestly asking this. 

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    StrugglingtostayUM, I applaud you and your honest inquiry of "What is sin?" Your analogy of being a female, having equal access, and being told to sit down and shut up, expresses learned behavior and opinion.  You have a very valid question. I can say this, loving someone, gay or straight, is not a sin. Larry Gilbert below, has an excellent solution; Pray, Pray, and Pray some more about it.  It is time that people start seeing the good in people, things, and situations. Isn't there enough hatred and ugliness without getting into someone's personal preferences? When we do that, it becomes opinion. When opinion takes the forefront, there is judgement. You mentioned that "We all know that we pick and choose what we read and follow in the Bible". You could not have been more on point with this statement. People pick and choose all the time. It becomes about preferences, what people choose that is personal to them.  Does anyone exclude heterosexual people who practice sexual behaviors in their private lives, from the church? No, no one questions what heterosexual people do in their own closets, so why question a homosexual person? What about heterosexual men who cross-dress? Unless you peer through their close or peep through their windows, you would never know and get what, it just doesn't matter. But some people CHOOSE" to make it their business.  I don't want to make this all about sexual orientation, but the analogies fit.  Getting back to sin, I get your question about the Pastor having an affair. In my opinion, that is a sin because that Pastor took a vow to be committed to one person and broke that vow.  It is not for me to judge that Pastor's behavior, it is God's place to judge. That Pastor should step down, again in my opinion, due to a failure to demonstrate leadership whether that Pastor was gay or straight.  Again, that is just my opinion. That doesn't mean I get to sentence the Pastor.  Another thought for me is that some people are literalists, so when they interpret the Scriptures in the Bible, they take what is written literally when it was meant figuratively to be thought-provoking. "Am I being a good Christian and living my life as God asks us?"   Do you know anyone who takes things literally, when it was intended metaphorically?  For me, it is very simple, when it comes to hetero and homosexuality, DON"T CHOOSE, OPEN THE DOOR TO ALL who want to worship God and do his work.  After all, it is God's House.  That is what God asks us to do, love thy neighbor as you love yourself.  Who cares if your neighbor is gay or straight? Are they a good neighbor to you? You are right, "Let he who has not sinned, cast the first stone."  I wish you well and hope you find your answers through prayer.

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  • StrugglingtostayUM 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I have thought about these comments and must say this:  Why do we go to church and what does God expect?  You are right, it not for me to be the final judge, but there are wrongs, there are sins and if we - as a church and as Christians - do not stand for certain values then why are we in church?  If we do not expect faith to change people then we are no different than friends in the local bar.  Going to church means you learn to live as Christ taught, but part of the teaching is that we learn and then change our behavior.  You said hetrosexual people were not judged on their behavior.  Shouldn't they be?   I would expect them to be judged by the guidelines in the Bible.  I would expect the church to go to them and say, "That is a no-no.  Let us work with you.  Let us help you.  Let us love you but that is still a no-no."  If we continue to say, "Oh, you do __??__.  That is okay."  what is that person to say when they stand before God.  "Well, the UMC said it was okay so what is the big deal?"  I firmly believe there are cultural differences in the Bible but God gave us rules.  God gave us guidelines.  Jesus died for our sins.  He died because WE SIN.  If we are to become so tolerant that everything is acceptable then why did Jesus die?  I do my very best to live by the 10 commandments.  I do my very best to love my neighbor.   I do my very best.  And when I fail, I confess. I ask forgiveness.  I have to ask forgiveness because I have sinned.  SIN - It is real. 

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    First, we go to church because God tells us in the 10 Commandments to "Remember to keep holy, the Sabbath day".  We go to church because God welcomes us into His house, a house that is free of judgment, a house of forgiveness, a house where people come together to worship God, a house where God's children (all of God's children) can work together as Christians to carry out the work of the Lord, our God.  I believe God brings us together as a way for us to work on loving each other, as we love ourselves. God wants us to demonstrate that we can love each other without judgment in a place where people show respect; respect for God, His house, and all His children.  Is there certain etiquette when one walks into church?  There is.  There is a transformation of behaviors, there is transformation of minds, there is transformation of expectations.  People (some) all of a sudden behave differently because of where they are.  It is extremely easy to SAY we are good Christians, but to walk the walk is a much greater challenge. God challenges us to walk the walk and that includes loving our neighbors unconditionally.  Does this sound like "bar friends"? No, this sounds like worship in a place that commands respect and love.  Can I ask what you mean by, "If we do not expect faith to change people…" What change are you speaking of?  I do not want to assume you are saying faith changes people's sexual orientation, but if you are implying that, can you change your sexual orientation?  Why not, can't you just think differently?  Can't you just take a pill?  Can't you just will it into existence?  Neither can we and I know that is very hard for some people to understand because they cannot identify with it and society (human beings) decided what was right and what was wrong instead of leaving that judgment up to God.  There are many interpretations (opinions) of how people "should be" in a general sense.  We see the world as WE ARE, not as it is.  We see things through our own experiences, lessons, and expectations.  Imagine what it would be like to see the world through God's eyes. You are right that if we live our life as God wants (through His eyes), our behaviors should reflect that.  God does not state in the 10 Commandments, "Thou shall not be homosexual", he commands, "Thou shall not have any other god before thee", "Thou shall not murder", "Thou shall not commit adultery (the Pastor you spoke about)", "Thou shall not steal", "Thou shall not covet thy neighbors goods", "Thou shall not covet thy neighbors wife", "Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighnbor", "Honor thy father and mother", "Thou shall not take the Lord thy God's name in vain", "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath" (obviously not in this order).

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  • StrugglingtostayUM 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Change people - Actually, that part had nothing to do with sexual orientation.  Change - If when we accept God, the blood of the Cross and the Holy Spirit, we better change.  Man, I did!  --- For the rest of the discussion,  one person in our Sunday School class says, "How about if we agree to disagree."    -- And we all need to pray for each other. 

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    As for heterosexual people being judged on their behavior, go back to the 10 Commandments, it doesn't say, "Thou shall only engage is missionary style copulation" and while people engage in behaviors that others would not, it all boils down to people's personal preferences. God does the judging.  So, to answer your question, "What is that person to say when they stand before God"? I guess you would have to be the one standing before God to know, because it is between God and that person, whether it be you, me, or someone else.  I cannot begin to tell you just how blessed I am in my life. God uses me as a vehicle in so many ways.  I used to be afraid of the missions God put before me.  In talking to a complete stranger on an airplane once, God sent me a message.  I know I said "complete stranger", but it was actually God using someone else as a vehicle to reach me. God uses people in ways we don't understand sometimes.  Don't question why, just do.  Live your life as God would and how He asks us to.  Open your heart and your mind completely to God; jump out in a true leap of faith, no hands, just jump and trust His love.  You will be amazed at the blessings that come your way, not because of expecting those blessings, but because that is what God asks us to do, trust Him completely that he knows what we need, when we need it.  Guess what, He gives it to us too, even if we don't deserve it.  Why, because he loves us unconditionally they way we should love one another.  You use the word "tolerate".  To tolerate means to "put up with".  Would you "tolerate" your child(ren) if he/she/they came to you to share that they are homosexual?  Don't judge the methods by which someone loves another, just because it is not your method.  Judge the act of loving, the love they have to give and to receive.  Judge the feeling that is associated with the word "love", is it sincere or not.  People confuse the physical with the emotional.   It is pretty obvious that you are soul searching. You are a very blessed person and you are obviously trying to open your mind and your heart.  Keep working at it, praying on it, keep living the 10 Commandments.  Sin is for real; it is just that we look at sin as what society says sin is, instead of asking God.  As long as we keep God in the forefront of our thoughts when it comes to our own behaviors, we should be on the right path.  I will keep you in my prayers.

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  • Victor Harner 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Changes to clergy pension:
    So this year I am likely lose the "guarantee" that I was given to always have an appointment( if I was in good standing) and having my future pension reduced and put at greater risk? So much for the covenant that I agreed to 25 years ago.

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  • Larry Gilbert 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    The church must be united in prayer through the guidance of the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  So...pray, pray, pray!  Pray scripturally using God's very words and the General Conference will be in God's will.

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  • Larry Teasley 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    My question: Is the term "holy conversation" being defined and/or equated to "holy concurrence"?  If so, we need to have holy conversation on the concept of holy conversation?

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  • toadsandfrogs 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Is Holy Conversation a code word to change the present status of not allowing a practicing homosexual have charge of a church?  While many of us have family or friends who are homosexual and welcome them to worship with us and agree Jesus cares as much about them as non homosexuals does not mean we have to embrace that life style or agree that it is acceptable.  It is grossly unfair to call anyone who does not embrace sodomy as being homophobic or a hater.   I once belonged to a church where the youth pastor was homosexual and it was kept from the congregation for some time.  A parent should make the decision as to whom they will have lead and teach their children and it is not the right of a Bishop or District Superintendent to appoint someone whose moral compass is so different without at least notifying the congregation. But if Holy Conversation is truly intended to take venom out of controversial subjects that would be a welcome from most religious conferences.

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  • xnlover, Seeker of light 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

      Beyond what I said in my other post, if you look at the various references to same-sex practice in the Bible, what you will notice is that every one of them makes reference either to an abusive power relationship (cf. especially Lev. 18 and 20 and Gen. 19) or a focus on the gratification of the flesh without reference to the expression of love for the partner (Rom. 1 et al).  Nowhere are loving same-sex relationships even mentioned (though some would take exception to that claim, citing the David/Jonathan relationship, the Ruth/Naomi relationship, and other references in some of the words of Jesus and other suggestive passages, though none of these rises to the level of "proof").  In fact, the things God condemns in every circumstance are the abuse of power of one person over another and the assumption of the position that one is one's own god, choosing to do what one will without reference to the Creator.  Though homosexuality is inherently non-procreative, and because of that is considered by some to be "unnatural," any condemnation of it on that basis is more reflective of the Bible's general consideration of non-procreativity as being a curse than it is of it being sinful in itself.
      Besides that, in light of the recent advances in reproductive medicine, gay partners are able to have children of their own (and many have children from former heterosexual marriages consummated when they were "passing" as straight); and many also choose to act as foster parents and to adopt the children of others.  So the non-procreativity issue in relation to homosexuality is becoming a moot point.  Besides, though childless heterosexual couples are often pitied - and sometimes looked down upon - in present-day society, especially when they are childless by choice rather than due to some physiological factor, there is nowhere nearly the attitude in the developed world regarding childlessness that there was in biblical times.
      Gay couples should be commended for seeking the stability of committed, loving relationships and, when they have children, whether by participating in their production or adopting them, they should be supported in every way that heterosexual couples with children are.  Those are some "lifestyles" with which we can learn to live.

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  • xnlover, Seeker of light 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    You refer to "sodomy" as though it were something in which only gay men engage.  Do you not know that many straight couples engage in sodomy and find that it contributes to greater intimacy and pleasure in their relationships?  In fact, some straight couples use sex toys that allow the woman to sodomize the man.
    One of the points I'm trying to make is that we too often use terms in our conversations, the full implications of which we do not understand.  When we are engaging in an exchange of ideas with our sisters and brothers in Christ, we need to be very precise with our language and always be seeking to learn more than we believe we know.  In that way, we open ourselves to gaining the greater wisdom that God will make available to us, if we allow God to do so.

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  • xnlover, Seeker of light 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    First, I would like to say that we have for too long failed to have holy conversation around the use of the misleading term "lifestyle" when it is used in a discussion of homosexuality.  I am a celibate openly gay ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.  When the term "lifestyle" is used in reference to the way I live my life because I am gay, I am deeply offended; because in referring in that way to my "lifestyle," I understand that I am thereby being accused of a whole range of things that the secular and religious society has loaded onto that term, to wit:  I am predatory towards young men and boys; I have unprotected sex with multiple partners; I am, therefore, a carrier of various STDs, including, probably, HIV/AIDS; I lie about "being celibate," having a secret life so that I will not be brought up on charges and have my ordination rescinded; I cannot truly be a committed disciple of Jesus Christ, because if I were, I would seek Jesus' "healing" of my homosexuality, which is considered by many to be a "sickness" or "mental illness";  even if I am truly celibate and live some semblance of Christian morals, I am sinning by leading others astray by telling them that being gay is okay; and a whole range of other accusations beyond that.
    So, please, can we first of all have a holy conversation around the terminology we use to discuss this issue and the terms we use to refer to other children of God?  I believe it was images and assumptions such as those I have stated above that stood behind the denomination's acceptance in 1972 of the "incompatibility clause" in the Social Principles statement on homosexuality and that have stood unstated and unquestioned behind every other negative judgment about homosexuality that people in our denomination have made since then, whether those enshrined in the Book of Discipline or in the pages of UM publications, both official and unofficial.
    Language has power, and the misuse of language has for too long gone unaddressed and uncorrected in our Church.  We must begin at a much more basic level than the discussion of homosexuality to address the power dynamics that are present within our Church as revealed by language that is abusive and yet that has gone unchallenged in our conversations for even more than the decades that this particular topic has been under discussion.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    toadsandfrogs, I would also like to ask you this.  Do you think just because someone is a homosexual, they do not have an ethical or Christian-like moral compass?  By whose standards are you judging, yours? Another human beings?  Who are you to judge anyone?  God is our maker and our judge, not you, nor anyone else.  For you to pass judgement on the Youth Pastor is exactly what God asks us NOT to do.  Did YOU volunteer for the Youth Pastor job?  Did thisYouth Pastor have a criminal background?  Obviously not, in order to be able to work with children/youth in the church or anywhere else.  So, by reason of deduction and by your statement, let's jst call a spade a spade. You are afraid that just because the Youth Pastor is a homosexual, that he/she will molest or sexually abuse the youth?  Do you know how many heterosexual people sexually abuse or molest youth?  Do you care or do you just want to spread false venom because they are homosexual and you don't approve of that?  Somone's sexual orientation has nothing to do with their "moral compass", as you use the term.  Do you question the moral compass of the Bishop or the District Superintendent for choosing someone "so different"?  Afterall, they are the ones that you say put the Youth Pastor in that position. You probably didn't because they are heterosexual.  I applaud that Bishop and that District Superintendent.  It takes courage, character, and strong moral convictions to do the right thing in the face of not being popular. They chose the person they felt would be the best Youth Pastor for their church and their youth.  They chose someone based upon their qualifications, not because of who they love.  Let me give you the definition of "moral compass": anything which serves to guide a person's decisions based on morals or virtues.  the definition of moral is: of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical.  Here is the definition of virtues: moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.  None of these definitions speak about someone's sexual orientation which means you are judging someone on your  fear. My guess is, you are more uncomfortable with a gay man than you are with a lesbian. Did you leave that church as a result of this Youth Pastor?  You said you "once belonged". You talk about taking venom out of controversial subjects, you add venom to subjects that should not be controversial.  It just makes me laugh at the thought process in your statement. Reading your comment is like arguing with a cop and giving him/her all the excuses for why you were speeding.  None of the answers you try to give the cop for why you were speeding will ever offset logic.  Like I said earlier, change your paradigm.  See homosexuals not through the eyes of a peeping tom in a person's bedroom.  Look through the eyes of God and find love and compassion for all of God's creatures made in His likeness and image, including homosexuals.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Toadsandfrogs,

    I would like to address a comment you made.  You stated, "It is grossly unfair to call anyone who does not embrace sodomy as being homophobic or a hater."  Based upon that statement, it is very apparent that when you look at LGBT people, the only thing you see is the physical act of making love, especially if it is a male relationship.  When I think of my heterosexual friends, I don't envision them in their beds making love, I see their hearts, their souls, their character. I watch them serve the Lord throught their kindness and reaching out to others.  You cannot have friends and family who are homosexuals, "welcome" them, and still feel that it is unacceptable. Your statement, "While many of us have family or friends who are homosexual and welcome them to worship with us and agree Jesus cares as much about them as non homosexuals does not mean we have to embrace that life style or agree that it is acceptable.", conflicts with your values and opinions.  I call that hypocrisy.   If that lifestyle is unacceptable, then you do not "welcome" them.  So I ask once again, let us have a "Holy Conversation" with the intent to take the venom out of controversial subjects.  Let's ALL unite in God's love, not the physical, and become a United Methodist Church.

    -Elisabeth

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 13 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    It is my hope and I pray that through "Holy Conversation", the United Methodist Church would openly wrap their arms around LGBT communities throughout the world and invite them in to the Church unconditionally through a change in the laws of the Church.  As I read some of the comments from the previews of General Conference issues, it is quite clear that the United Methodist Church wants to be the "Church for all people".  The LBGT communites are people too, also desciples of Jesus Christ, who are moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, who should not be turned away or ostrecized because of who they love.  The key word is LOVE and how can that be "bad" or "wrong" or even ridiculed?  If Jesus Christ, our God the Father almighty, created all of us, then we should ALL be God's people united together to do God's work and carry out his mission. “Holy conversation is a commitment to see equity, participation and access to participation”, for all, including LGBT people.  A very wise ordained member of Clergy once said to me during a time of struggle, "Don't question why, just do."  Let the United Methodist Church, through the governing bodies, not only make a statement about what it is to be a desciple of God, but put that statement into action.  That is when you will see and feel God's mission and work.  Thank you for allowing me a voice in the "Holy Conversation".  Elisabeth

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  • mc54 12 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I am a delegate to General Conference.  I am saddened that "Holy Conversation" is being defined as "a commitment to see equity, participation and access to participation”, for all, including LGBT people."  Certainly I want all, including LGBT, to feel welcome.  However, not at the expense of the truth of Scripture.  The Discipline of our church and the Bible teach that homosexual practice is not compatible with  Christian teaching, and we cannot affirm otherwise.  Clearly we have some who want to change the United Methodist position on homosexuality and a majority (I believe) who do not.  Both positions cannot carry the day.  If "Holy Conversation" means that we must change our position, then it is neither "Holy" nor "conversation".  We have dealt with this issue every General Conference for over 40 years.  That is enough.  It is time to move on, or we will never be a "United" Methodist Church. 

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  • xnlover, Seeker of light 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I think a letter was missing in the statement in the article.  I believe the sentence should read, "Holy conversation is a commitment to *seek* equity, participation and access to participation."
    That said, your stating that "we have dealt with this issue every General Conference for over 40 years.  That is enough," suggests that you are not open to committing yourself to the practice of holy conversation.  Based on your other statements, it seems the reason you are not open to that practice is that you believe the denomination "got it right" in 1972 and has continued to do so since then, and you want the conversation around the issue to stop and those who disagree to shut up or to go away.  What a lovely picture!
    I recommend that you spend the time leading up to General Conference asking the Lord what else might be behind your intransigence on the issue of holy conversation, especially in light of His command to love even your enemies (Matt. 5.44).  I'm guessing He might have something to tell you that you, so far, have been unwilling to hear or to attend to.  If you were a delegate to the 2008 General Conference and still have the Upper Room pre-Conference devotional guide, "A Future with Hope," perhaps the devotionals in the sections on Holy Conversation and Holy Conferencing would help guide your conversation with God.  However you decide to prepare for participation in General Conference, may you be blessed in the process and as you participate in this important gathering.

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  • 1Harry_Tick 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    You say the "truth of Scripture"  like your interpretation is divinely inspired, perfect and inerrant in its original writing, and to question your views are to question God Himself.  Your post reminds me of a poster on face book showing children of all races and below says,,, "I love people regardless if they are black, brown, yellow or normal."  It is the height of arrogance to assume you are the sole and true voice of God in the world.  For years the church taught slavery was ok.  Many in the United states believed blacks did not have souls. Few would hold that view now.  But many question women's role in ministry.  If you believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture, how do you deal with 1Cor. 14:34, and 1Tim.2:11-12?  Yet you allow women to be pastors, teachers, even read scripture in church.  A lot of "true believers" would say you are perverting not only the Word of God, but His Holy Church.  What do you say to them? If you had a daughter who believed she was called by God to be a pastor, and preached in church, would you condemn her?  Disown her?  Perhaps you would just love her and tell her she is welcome to come in to church, provided she sits down and shuts up, as the poor misguided female she is.  
    That is your solution to the "Gay Problem" They are welcome so long as they sit down shut up, and know their place.   I suppose I should be grateful that your solution is not a final solution.  

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    It is time to be a United Methodist Church mc54. Open your heart and your mind and if you are having trouble, pray on it and talk to God.

    I'll share with you why I chose to become vocal about including LGBT communities as being recognized and included in the laws of the United Methodist Church. I'll leave you with this...

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist
    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist
    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew
    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    -Martin Neimoller

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    While I am vocal about some things, I had never been vocal about LGBT issues until now. I don't lead my life marching or flag waving, not that there is anything wrong with people expressing their support for LGBT issues in that manner. You have inspired me. You have ignited a spark and a spark is all that it takes. I shall pray for you and for those who have a stunted vision or think that they can even replicate God's love for ALL His creatures and interpret what He said. Lastly, I was taught that God is our judge, not man. God didn’t say, “What did you catch your neighbor doing today?” He asked, “What did you do to help your neighbor today?” There are no perfect people and God asks us to open our hearts, minds, and doors to our neighbors. Are you saying that only heterosexual people are capable of being worthy of God’s love and of being a Christian? Did you say you have fighting the inclusion of LGBT people for over the last forty years? That must be a heavy burden to bear.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    It is not enough and it will never be enough until ALL people, gay, straight, black, white, red, yellow, young, old, handicapped, able-bodied, and more, are recognized and included, not just "welcomed for their money", but included, period, THE END. THAT is when it will be enough. Your right though, it is time to move on, from thinking that being able to engage in a "Holy Conversation" with someone with your angry mindset, could prove productive. I noticed that you didn't comment on love being "bad", "wrong", or "ridiculed". You seem to only choose to hide behind scripture.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    If, for "over the last 40 years", as you say, there have been people who have been trying to right a wrong within the UMC, doesn't that say something to you? Forty plus years ago, people recognized the inequity and discrimination. For you to make a statement about the last 40 years or more, means you've been hiding your head in the sand too long. I belong to the Missouri United Methodist Church, where everyone is accepted; gay or straight, black, white, red, yellow, young, old, handicapped, able-bodied, and more. We have many different ministries, including Open Door Ministry, for LGBT people, their family, their friends, and our congregation. So, if the UMC's teachings and Discipline isn't "compatible" with homosexuality, how is it that MY MUMC is compatible with God's mission, and that is doing His work, in His name, for His honor and His glory.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    While very "admirable" of you to want LGBT communities to feel "welcomed", you still do not want them included. You wouldn't give them their offering or gift to the Church back, would you? No, you'd keep that because that is how the UMC survives. Without people, the Church dies, and if I am remembering a recent sermon, the UMC enrollment numbers are down drastically. I wonder why? So, how is it that LGBT people can be "members" of the UMC anyway based upon your comments? Why not just turn them away at the door and let them know up front that they are incompatible with the UMC and Christianity? Oh, that's right, it comes down to money. So, who are you going to turn away next because of your beliefs?

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    If your argument against homosexuals being included is, "The Discipline of our church and the Bible teach that homosexual practice is not compatible with Christian teaching, and we cannot affirm otherwise". That tells me that man, not God is being the judge on the Discipline of the Church, the laws, teachings, positions, and which Bible they want to interpret, hence the General Conference. That makes this a political money game and not a religion or faith. Even the interpretations of scripture contradict each other. You also stated, "However, not at the expense of the truth of Scripture." Well, who wrote that scripture? It was interpreted and written by man. Why are there so many version of the Holy Bible? Because different people have different beliefs or interpretations of the scripture, therefore there are different versions of the Bible. Human beings are making up the "laws" of the UMC, not Jesus Christ. Jesus sat with the sinners while you hide behind your hypocrisy.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    mc54, due to the length of my reply to you, I will break it up into segments so as to abide by the forum's word count.

    Come out from behind your mask and identify yourself, Mr., Ms., or Mrs. delegate. If you are a representative of the General Conference, then come forward and let all people know who you are. After all, you represent them. You have that obligation as a delegate to be transparent. If you’re saddened, it is because of your closed-mindedness, outdated mentality, and man-interpreting brainwashing. I am sad for you. The definition of the "Holy Conversation" was not my definition, but a definition from a representative like yourself. A delegate of the General Conference, who proudly put her name behind her statement and was quoted directly from the "Briefing Previews of General Conference Issues". Here is the website link: http://www.umc.org/site/apps/n...¬oc=1

    Erin Hawkins, who leads the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, said, “We are tasked with sustaining a difficult conversation every day. “Holy conversation is a commitment to see equity, participation and access to participation.”

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  • mc54 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Obviously, my comments offended, and I am sorry about that. We already see the difficulty of holy conversation on this issue. We do have two incompatible views on homosexuality. There are those who believe homosexual practice to be a God given human desire and a right that must be upheld. And there are those who believe homosexual practice to be sin which Scripture teaches is incompatible with Christian teaching. Both sides are sincere, and neither can give up their positions because of conscience. I do not want to demonize those who diagree with me.

    However, The UMC cannot teach both, can it?

    How can holy conversation help us to resolve this without one side or the other giving up their position? There are resolutions before this General Conference that would permit congregations that cannot in good conscience live with the UMC position to withdraw and retain their property -regardless of which position prevails.

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  • TrulyBlessedLGBTQDisciple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    mc54, thank
    you for your apology.  Holy conversation should not be difficult if all
    who partake enter into that holy conversation in the right spirit.  You
    are right that there are two positions, and that is the problem.  It isn't
    about "positions".  When people take positions, they take a
    stance and then lock themselves into that position with no room for other
    options to a resolution.  Once you are in that position, backing off that
    position when warranted, becomes too humiliating to those who took that position,
    so they do not back off.  This becomes a test of wills and people dig
    their heels in.  There is no room for discussion, open minds, open hearts,
    or open doors when there are "positions".  This should be about
    "interests", the "why's", not a "position".
    Getting to the "why's" opens up the door to holy conversation and a
    win-win.  Don't see it as an "all or nothing".  This isn't
    about a winner and a loser.  All Christians, all Methodists should
    "win" by being allowed to worship God equally under the
    "Disciplines of the UMC".  This is about God and all being able to worship Him
    and carry out His mission. For those who want to keep their heels dug in or
    cannot "in good conscience" live with the UMC when the General
    Conference votes to withdraw their "position" on homosexuality, will
    then have to make a decision about God's expectations to treat your neighbor,
    gay or straight, with the same love you have for God and whether they want to
    continue to keep the UMC divided. I will keep you and those in the General Conference
    in my prayers.

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