As expected, according to yesterday's negotiations the Agenda and Calendar Committee moved all sexuality issues to the end of the schedule. They even gave the reason as avoiding more harm. Shortly afterward the presiding bishop said the plenary sessions end at 5:00, though if business wasn't done there could be one more hour in the evening before the worship service. That was some concern, though I heard that there would be so much business it extremely doubtful that the sexuality issues come up – unless someone moves to bring them all up together.
So much of the day was quiet, simply waiting and watching the proceedings or writing on my netbook while budget items were discussed. There was one moment that brought us to the perimeter of the floor in watchfulness. One budget item showed that money was not saved by reducing, demoting, and combining the watchdog agencies for women and racial issues. That was the big reason that had been given for promoting the change. One delegate, who had voted for the change, requested the issue reopened. Apparently, appropriate people were prepared to support the motion and provide spirited debate. Alas, the motion to reconsider was voted down.
At lunch several speakers, including a retired bishop, spoke in the Tabernacle about the Altar for All campaign to sign up pastors who are willing to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. So far, 1100 pastors have sighed. The saying for today is, “Don't let the Book of Discipline eclipse your conscience.”
The Coalition must be big and important! I make that claim because Westboro Baptist Church picketed the Tabernacle after lunch. A few of our members created a blockade so the Westboro gang couldn't brush up against our older members in hopes of provoking an assault charge. Even though Westboro's presence means we're doing something right I agree with the comment, “We don't need more hate.” It seemed ironic that one of Westboro's signs said, “Methodist Fag Church,” considering the way the conference voted yesterday.
At 4:30 the entire convention became atwitter (and a-Twitter) when the conference secretary announced that Plan UMC, an extensive restructuring of the denomination's boards and agencies enacted earlier in the week, was declared to be unconstitutional by the Judicial Council according to the existing Book of Discipline. A break was followed quickly by a dinner break to allow the Agenda Committee to figure a way forward. At least budget and staffing for the restored former structure needed to be redone, as well as what to do with structure until the next conference in 2016. Rejecting Plan UMC meant the watchdog agencies for women and race were back.
The first item after supper was to refer the damaged structure proposal to the Council of Bishops. Discussion (even with limited discussion time) and amendments to this item took more than an hour before someone declared it really wasn't essential to be dealt with for the denomination to run for the next four years and it was tabled until essential business was complete. I heard later that some of the proposed amendments came from coalition delegates. The were running out the clock to make sure we wouldn't have time for gay issues.
The necessary recovery for the fallback structure was complete by 10:15. A woman rose to ask for action on a petition to remove the UMC from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The RCRC was created by the UMC and other denominations about 40 years ago and, of course, there is a whiff of abortion about it (I think because there is support for Planned Parenthood). By this time the delegates were in no mood to consider any more legislation, especially one so contentious, and soundly defeated the motion. A motion to bring back the table motion on referring Plan UMC to the bishops was also soundly rejected. Soon after came a motion to adjourn which was quickly seized. And no further harm was done to us.