What really happened at General Conference? – Part 2

Should I find a new church??

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.  Bishop-Bruce-R.-OughThere 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.

What really happened at General Conference? – Part 1

I’ve been traveling and ministering in United Methodist Churches for 45 years now. In recent years, it’s been incredibly frustrating that the people entrusted to lead the denomination have pursued a liberal, progressive agenda, consistently ignoring what the people in the pews expect them to do. Indeed, most of the people I worship with each week have no idea of the things the Church is saying and doing on their behalf, and they would be horrified if they did. Every four years, the UM Church holds a General Conference where these battles are fought anew.  I went to the Conference in Portland this year, expectant that the denomination would begin to more accurately reflect Biblical truth in all areas of leadership.

“The Showdown in Portland”

The dust is settling from what became quite a showdown. This General Conference certainly lived up to all the pre-meeting hype!  The conservatives hoped to maintain the stance on human sexuality that has stood fast now for over four decades, despite regular and forceful attempts to change it. In recent years there have been many very public efforts to disobey the Book of Discipline, so they also hoped to tighten up the language to provide for a new level of accountability.  The progressives came with the agenda of finally overturning that language and “moving the denomination into the 21st century,” as they put it.  They were emboldened by the recent shift in public opinion engendered by the actions of the Supreme Court.  Surely, this would be their year!