News Archives

Language about sexuality remains an issue for agency

3/25/2003

HERNDON, Va. (UMNS) - Issues about the church's statements on sexuality continue to divide members of the United Methodist Church's advocacy and social action agency, as they divide the denomination.

Strongly held opinions on both sides were acknowledged when voting members of the Board of Church and Society, in a March 20-23 meeting, considered recommending a change in a statement about homosexuality now found in the church's Social Principles.

Such petitions for change and for new resolutions will be forwarded to General Conference, the church's highest legislative body, which meets April 27-May 7, 2004, in Pittsburgh. Only the General Conference speaks for the denomination, but any United Methodist organization or individual member may submit a petition.

Much of the board meeting was devoted to revising or creating material to be considered by General Conference.

Current language in the church's Social Principles recognizes homosexuals as "persons of sacred worth," while also holding that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." The principles are found in both the church's Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions.

The board's "work area on human welfare" group suggested changing part of Paragraph 161G, on human sexuality, to replace the sentence that says, "Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all." The proposed replacement reads, "Although faithful Christians disagree on the compatibility of homosexual practice with Christian teaching, we affirm that God's grace is available to all."

Henry C. Shelton III offered a substitute proposal that the General Conference declare a moratorium on this subject and language while leaving the current language in place. After discussion, the substitute was defeated 19-13. The board then voted 20-12 to forward the committee's original proposed change to the General Conference.

A petition asking that the General Conference not restrict the full participation of "transsexual persons" in the life and ministry of the church was referred to the Board of Higher Education and Ministry. A revision of an existing resolution on the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people was approved for sending on to General Conference.

A myriad of petitions relating to other issues received approval with little or no discussion. These included petitions on mental illness, welfare reform in the United States, world population, drug and alcohol concerns, U.S. campaign finance reform, Native American development and support for U.S. domestic programs.

Two existing resolutions were merged in a revised "A Dioxon-free Future."

A new resolution seeks board advocacy on behalf of health care, labor and environmental concerns related to the interpretation of the rules of the World Trade Organization. Another new resolution is on "Faithful Care for the Dying." Although a similar resolution was approved by the 2000 General Conference, subsequent action on another resolution deleted it.

The board will continue working on materials to go to General Conference when it meets Sept. 10-14 in Herndon, Va.

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