May 6, 2004
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
(UMNS) — At 11:10 a.m. May 6, a single drummer slowly beat a rhythm
signaling the beginning of a peaceful interruption of the 2004 General
A UMNS Photo by John C. Goodwin
Advocates for gay and lesbian rights
protest church policies during the
2004 General Conference in
demonstration was led by Soulforce, a gay rights advocacy group. More
than 500 people circled the floor of the conference for 35 minutes
carrying banners and singing hymns of reconciliation.
drum signals us that there are guests among us,” said Bishop Janice
Huie of Arkansas, who was leading the morning session. “They come in
peace as a witness among us. I invite you to embody God’s love to these
strangers and friends.”
the group around the room, a single voice issued an invitation to
“those who want to reconcile, those who want justice, come out and join
Miller, delegate from Greater New Jersey, took the stage and led the
group in singing several songs, beginning with “What Does the Lord
Require of You?” and ending with “Marching to Zion.”
Many of the marchers carried signs with messages such as “There Are Homosexuals Already in Heaven” and “God Loves You and Me.”
A UMNS Photo by John C.
More than 500 supporters
of full rights for gay men
and lesbians in the United
Methodist Church march in
Dressed in liturgical robes, some members of the group walked to the altar and poured water into the baptismal fount.
Marjorie Carlson, a participant in the demonstration, explained that adding the water was meant to symbolize a common bowl.
have been holding water at the entrance to General Conference every
morning and inviting people to remember their baptism. We brought that
water here to remember what we bring to the church, that we are of one
faith and baptized by one God.”
As the demonstration went on, many delegates and bishops on the podium stood, sang and clapped in unison with the demonstrators.
a press conference held immediately after the demonstration, Jim Perry,
chairperson of the Committee on General Conference, said he thought it
was “a peaceful, worshipful moment.”
has been our goal over the past four years in planning this conference
that we engage in peaceful, respectful conversation,” he said. “It is my
hope that this helped people feel closer, whether they are in agreement
over the issue or not.”
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. After May 10: (615) 742-5470.