In part one, we looked at the events of the first week of General Conference, the conservative advances that were being made, and the secret meeting that brought the church to the point of asking the Council of Bishops to intervene. Today we will examine what the Conference did with the proposal and what it might ultimately mean for the future of United Methodism.
On the day the Conference was expected to vote on issues of sexuality, and seemed poised to strengthen the Biblical interpretation, the bishops instead offered a new proposal to delegates. It would set aside debate on sexual matters, form a commission to study the issue, and return in two or three years to a special General Conference to finally vote. After an incredibly confusing debate, this ultimately passed with a 23 vote majority, 428 for and 405 against. There were several questionable parliamentary maneuvers that kept that vote in place for the remainder of the conference. If you want the nuts and bolts synopsis of this process, here is a play by play. The end result was that all the hard work from the previous week ironically served to build the pressure that ultimately led to the creation of the bishops’ commission. The truth is that there is no way a negotiated settlement could have been worked out at General Conference, so a commission is really the only way we could move toward a permanent resolution of our division. If handled with integrity, the depth of our division will be clear, and steps can be taken to move us either back to a covenant-based unity or an amicable separation. If the Council of Bishops does not deal in good faith with the more conservative commission members, there will be major opposition from what has become the evangelical majority of the UMC.