Sunday, April 29, 2012

Harm was done

I've head that several of the United Methodist Annual (regional) Conferences are trying what is called Holy Conferencing. It is a time for delegates to discuss a hot issue in a respectful and calm manner. I haven't experienced it myself and neither has my father, who has attended many Annual Conference sessions.

A Holy Conferencing session was included in the General Conference to discuss issues of human sexuality (though the only big issue in that vast topic is what to do with gay people). Due to other Conference business the Holy Conferencing session started late so there wasn't enough time for (apparently) sufficient instruction to the participants nor enough time for everyone to be heard.

So some delegates took that time to dump all over gay people, saying the usual vile things -- we are prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts and dealers, we practice of bestiality, etc. They didn't conceive of the possibility that the delegate sitting across from them might be gay. Or if they did, intentionally turned their back or "unintentionally" kept hitting the gay person. Those gay delegates felt bullied.

During the next plenary session Mark Miller, a gay delegate from New Jersey asked for a moment to speak. He told the whole Conference about the harm he and fellow gay delegates felt. Many of them stood with him. The presiding bishop didn't let Miller finish, but at Miller's request did pray for the situation. The bishop also acknowledged that things had gone wrong at the Holy Conferencing sessions and apologized. Miller and other gay delegates also met with several church officials.

Even so, perhaps 300 members of the Common Witness Coalition stood in silent protest as delegates left the Convention Center that evening.

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