Post submitted by Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell, HRC Senior Faith Organizer
Earlier this month, HRC attended the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Every four years, the legislative branch of the United Methodist Church—the General Conference—meets to set church policy. It was expected that several issues pertaining to the LGBT community would be discussed, such as ordaining LGBT clergy and allowing clergy to officiate marriages for same-sex couples.
Church doctrine states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings” and prohibits “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from serving as ministers.
Approximately 1,000 delegates (half lay leaders, half clergy) gathered to consider revisions to the Book of Resolutions, which makes pronouncements on social issues, and the Book of Discipline, which details church law. Over 1000 pieces of legislation had been carefully whittled down to 56 in order to make the matter manageable in the two weeks set aside for the assembly.
Amid protest and fears of schism over LGBT issues, the delegates decided to accept a course of action submitted by the Council of Bishops. This new way forward from the Council of Bishop includes the establishment of a special Commission to “develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in their Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.” If the Commission reaches a conclusion before the General Conference meets again in 2020, a special session will be called to handle this matter alone.
Matt Berryman, head of Reconciling Ministries Network, a Methodist LGBT advocacy group, said the commission plan “signals hope.”
In the meantime, the full Council of Bishops have agreed to work diligently to avoid further complaints, trials and harm in order that the Church may live in grace one with the other. While this is good news for the LGBT community, several questions remain unanswered. HRC is committed to keeping track of the progress of this Commission in the coming months and years.
The entire statement offered by the Council of Bishops can be found here.
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For more information about the United Methodist Church and the LGBTQ community, click here.
People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBTQ people and our family and friends are no different. The HRC Religion and Faith Program is working to create a world where nobody is forced to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe. Learn more here.
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