May 4, 2004
By Melissa Lauber*
(UMNS) - More than 200 United Methodists braved near-freezing
temperatures early May 4, to kneel or stand in prayer in front of the
David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh in silent witness to
their desire for inclusiveness.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.
Lewis prays silently for 2004 General Conference delegates to change
the denomination’s stance on the practice of homosexuality.
witness came during the 2004 General Conference of the United Methodist
Church. The denomination’s legislative assembly is meeting April 27-May
7 at the convention center.
am here this morning trusting in God’s spirit to work. Prayer is the
way to tune into the spirit," said Bishop Susan Morrison of the Albany
(N.Y.) Area. "How could I be anywhere else?"
silent protest supporting the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender people in the United Methodist Church was sponsored by
the grassroots group Common Witness. It is made up of people from the
Methodist Federation for Social Action, Reconciling Ministries Network,
the Parents Reconciling Network and Affirmation: United Methodists for
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
group gathered at 6 a.m. at Smithfield United Church in Pittsburgh,
several blocks from the convention center. Morrison led the march to the
convention center with a prayer for "a bodacious spirit of gentleness."
of those present expressed an appreciation for the spirit of peace that
prevailed, claiming that the time for tension and confrontation has
is important to have a witness of prayer for inclusiveness," said the
Rev. Diane Summerhill of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. "Prayer
connects us with a power that can change the world. Things won’t change
quickly, but like drops of water, prayer can erode the hardest rock."
Rev. Lee Williamson of the California-Nevada Conference, agreed. "A
witness of presence is important," he said. "Showing up demonstrates
that you care. It goes back to relationship and our essential
relationship with God."
But whatever its form, a demonstration had to be made, said the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell of Denver.
was present in a similar demonstration in 1964 when the General
Conference met in Pittsburgh. "The issue then was race," he said, and
abolishing the racially segregated Central Jurisdiction.
in prayer outside the convention center once again, Caldwell said,
"This is part of my ministry, my calling. The church is continuing to
said he regrets that the church seems to be lagging behind society in
justice issues. "In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated ‘separate
but equal,’" he said. "Until 1968, the church remained segregated." The
church is also behind in accepting the sacred worth of those with
different sexual orientations, he said.
is reluctant "to compare the faces of bigotry. It is a waste of time to
say my oppression is more difficult than yours. Comparisons are
irrelevant," he said. "It is still human pain."
pain manifests itself in a countless number of small ways, said Sue
Laurie of the Reconciling Ministries Network, an unofficial United
Methodist group advocating more inclusiveness in the church. "Ordination
is not the most important form of exclusion.
times the church says, ‘Welcome, our doors are open,’ but lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people know when people don’t want their
family photos in the church directory, or their flowers on the piano, or
them teaching Sunday school. It is condemning."
the day the delegates continued to pray, rising in prayer when issues
of homosexuality were brought to the floor of General Conference.
a faith perspective, we must begin with prayer," said the Rev. Monica
Carsaro of the Reconciling Ministries Network. "Our prayer is that we
live together. We’re United Methodists; we don’t have to be of one mind,
but of one heart. Our prayer is for justice. It is a prayer of
wholeness and holiness."
*Lauber is a staff writer for the United Methodist News Service. Sue Whorl contributed to this article.
News media contact: (412) 325-6080 during General Conference, April 27-May 7. after May 10: (615) 742-5470.