Friday, May 2, 2008

The World Notices -- General Conference reactions

Some commentary is now appearing about the General Conference vote to retain the words "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" and tighten the phrases around it. By my count (and no guarantees of accuracy) there are 160 delegates from Africa, including 44 from Nigeria. I mention it because Africa, especially Nigeria, is very homophobic. The extremely virulent Anglican Bishop Akinola is from Nigeria. This link is to the list of districts (Michigan has two -- Detroit and West Michigan) with the number of delegates in each district).

That means, as Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin points out, if the African contingent wasn't there, the United Methodist Church would have softened its policies on gays. While conservative Americans may appreciate the help from their homophobic African brothers to impose their will on the rest of the denomination, what do those same conservative Americans think of the murderous violence perpetrated against gays in Africa? Do they approve? Are they disgusted, yet look the other way so they may keep their alliances and impose their will, maintain their power? Do they not care about the fate of gays?

A prediction by Mr. Kincaid: American Methodists -- and many other churches who are part of international denominations -- will be disgusted with the way Africa treats its gays, and will become more so as the American fossils retire and die off, leaving younger people in positions of authority. They will resent their progressive ways are being thwarted by foreign delegates from cultures of bigotry. But since the church is growing fastest in Africa and Asia, the church will split. Progressives will align with Europe, conservatives with Africa. In addition, many of the split away progressive factions will unite into new denominations.

Alas, a commenter points out that even if the key phrase had been removed, it would have been replaced with the mild, "We disagree on how homosexuality fits with Christian teaching," (wording approximate) it wouldn't change anything. Conservative congregations would still demonize gays and progressive congregations would ignore the Book of Discipline.

Yes, there were protests in Fort Worth. 200 silent demonstrators, dressed mostly in black, entered the legislative floor, formed a cross around the central altar and draped it in black. Then they sang, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord." A few speakers then spoke of the brokenness of the denomination and how it violated John Wesley's rules of "Do good. Do no harm. Stay in love with God." The second rule was clearly violated. The church is scapegoating gays on the altar of unity. Many delegates stood in unity with the protesters, including a lone from Nigeria.

Naturally, those opposed to gays felt the altar was desecrated, the demonstrators presumptuous and wondered if a corresponding demonstration would have been permitted if the main vote had been in favor of gays. Since the legislative session was not adjourned prior to the start of the demonstration, many felt like captives to the event. It was extortion and disrespectful of people of differing views.

An article from the denomination news service.

You might eventually find a video of the protest here.

Before the protest, dozens of people lay down on the sidewalk in front of the convention center doors. They outlined their bodies in chalk in the same manner of victims at a crime scene. Here is the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's report of the protest.

Another type of demonstration: One of the leaders of Reconciling Ministries (I met her at last summer's convocation) and her partner of 25 years were the center of a marriage ceremony in a park near the Fort Worth Convention Center. A layman officiated. Of course, it had no legal or church standing.

Another article with more pictures.

A poem about the vote. Part of it says:

The unchurched notice. They notice the church
cruelly scapegoating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people
on the altar of so-called unity
The young notice. They notice the church
denying, refusing, threatening, removing, closeting
the lgbt people who faithfully serve the church.
The world notices.
We notice.
God notices.

Yesterday, I wrote:

Continuing readiness for membership -- a pastor and lay leaders of a church are to counsel all in the meaning of membership and readiness to seek membership and also receive all who are willing to affirm membership vows.

Failed 436-448

I think this means GC punted on whether a pastor can reject a member because he is gay.

I misread it. What it means is that the current policy -- a pastor can reject a gay member -- remains in effect. We lost by 12 votes. This policy was enacted by the Judicial Council, not by a previous General Conference.

GC apparently defeated all petitions involving transgender issues. That means Rev. Drew Phoenix, a transgender pastor, may keep his appointment. Alas, sorting through the petitions can be difficult, so it took a comment from an outside observer. This observer also wrote about crucifixions and resurrections and how we need both. Alas, some of the GC actions towards gays are only crucifixions. The action towards transgenders was a moment of resurrection.

Late news:

A petition to change the Caregivers of Children paragraph of the Social Principles to acknowledge foster, divorced, and gay couples as supported types of families raising children passed by a whopping 842-24!

No comments:

Post a Comment