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Monday, May 12, 2008

And so it goes, and so it goes...

So General Conference is over and now we live with what was decided. I've been amazed at people who watched on live streaming since I would think that was very tedious! Others could care less what happened. Always there are some who see some legislation acted upon that makes them wonder whether they can continue to be United Methodist. Yet others perceived some positive changes in spirit and direction of the Church. And so it goes, and so it goes!

I am sure that many of you who watch this blog (or at least respond to it) have some responses to various legislation. Here's a short list, developed from a recent Newscope, to whet your memories:

The General Conference:
Approved a $642 million budget, representing an increased of 1.2% over each of the next 4 years;
Shortened the ordination process;
Changed the term "probationary" to "provisional" member (the status after commissioning);
Established a study group on church structure that would make the US a "regional" conference (like other areas of the world are central conferences now);
Approved full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the only item that made the Star Tribune that I know of--only in Minnesota!);
Rejected language that would state that United Methodists disagree on homosexuality;
Retained language that prohibits UM ministers from conducting homosexual unions as well as rejected proposals that would add "civil unions" to basic civil liberties in the Social Principles;
Opposed homophobia and heterosexism as "forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation;"
Reported in various ways the vitality of our denomination in this country and around the world;
and added "witness" to our promise of "prayers, presence, gifts and service."

This is hardly a comprehensive list; it's impossible to report all the changes so you may know of some others that matter more to you.

But I would be interested in what your reactions are to any decisions made at General Conference. How do they impact you? How does it make you feel as a United Methodist? How will you live them out?



Richard said...

I am deeply disappointed, but not greatly surprised, that the majority report on the Social Principles language regarding homosexuality failed. A good solid minority wanted to speak the truth in love: that we United Methodists are not of one mind on a number of issues around sexual orientation and the work of the church. A small majority denied this truth, thus marginalizing many genuine disciples of Christ. I find this prevailing negativity difficult to reconcile with the mind of the Christ as I have come to know it.

I am, however, inspired by the strength of the minority: "a remnant shall remain." From the remnant new life springs.

Donna Martinson said...

When I learned of the proposal to have the United States become a regional conference I was thankful to know that would be on the table. Waiting four years for a study group is a bit discouraging, and I hope they will recommend a "yes" to the proposal. In our important effort to be a global church and honor cultural differences, we should not forget our own culture and distinctiveness here in the U.S. Having a Book of Discipline which reflects this region's faith and understanding would be helpful.

Michelle said...

I know this might identify me as a church geek, but I thought it was great to be able to watch General Conference through livestreaming. I enjoyed watching your leadership Thursday night; a bishop with a sense of humor helps when the legislation piles up!

Like Richard I was saddened that the new language for Social Principles 161g was not passed but I was heartened that the vote was closer than in recent years. I was glad that steps were taken to move to regional conferences, but, like Donna, disappointed that it will be studied for another four years.

I also thought it was great that Kathi Austin Mahle was elected to the Judicial Council.

Mostly I am glad that, once again, we remain one church, even though we can't even agree that we disagree!
Michelle Hargrave

Gary Thompson, Excelsior UMC said...

I am a 63 year old life -long UM (born a Meth.) and a member of Excelsior UMC. We have recently gone through a process to become a Reconciling Congregation. But there are many of us for whom this is not enough. There is much discussion about our disappointment in the Genl. Conf.'s failure to change Discipline language on gay issues. Not even luke warm language on the subject could get passed on the floor.

We are asking whether there is a future for us in the UMC. I don't think we will wait around another four years in hopes that we can overcome the growing majority of conservatives in the UMC. We want to see something happening now.

Many of us wonder whether there is a financial leverage the national church would notice. If 50 members from 30 churches in Minnesota resigned their formal memberships in their churches, the local churches would not pay the conference the apportionment for those 1500 former members. That may well hurt the Minn. Conf., but would that pain be translated up to the national bishops?

I think it is time for the conference bishops (and you, our bishop) to stick your necks out. Why not take a position that the Minnesota Conference will no longer recognize specific language in the Discipline, as it is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Or if you need the Minn. Annual Conf. to instruct you to do it, then let's get it done. Then we will know if this church is the right place for us.

Leslie Albers said...

I am one of those Methodists who is thirsting for a reason to stay a Methodist. I am deeply grateful for the Methodist churches and individuals along my faith journey who created a safe, welcoming space for me to explore not only my beliefs but my doubts. I cherish the Wesleyan quadrilateral and the opportunities to read, study and love Scripture while participating in our church traditions, and engaging in God's current creation, and using all knowledge together to try to understand God's will for me and the world. But the Methodist Church no longer feels like that safe, welcoming space. When I wanted to say "I don't know if I believe in God," people listened and cared while I worked my way through. When I wanted to talk about the place for GLBT persons in our church, I was shunned by my local church and the larger church can't even whisper that some of us have differing ideas. I wanted to engage in dialogue and learn from those who think differently than I, but locally few would participate and globally my opinions are dismissed in the name of "unity." My heart is broken.

jmsl720 said...

In 1997 I left ordained ministry and in 2004 I surrendered my credentials. I could not, in good faith, deny the gift of sexuality given to me by our Creator. After watching two of my lesbian sisters be put through the meat grinder as ordained ministers I did not have the energy, or the desire, to be the NCJ poster boy for another witch hunt. When I asked for a leave of absence, the episcopal voice was silent. When I surrendered my credentials via a certified letter to my bishop, a response came from the Assistant to the Bishop. I have left the denomination into which I was born and raised to find spiritual nourishment and affirmation elsewhere. The Judicial Council took steps several years ago that told many LGBT people the UMC was not a safe and affirming place to be. Thanks be to God, someone, or some people on the Judicial Council had the vision to understand the value of the ministry of Rev. Drew Phoenix in Baltimore, a transgendered UMC pastor. I understand there are deep divisions within the denomination regarding homosexuality. But where are the prophetic voices? There are MANY gay clergy in the ranks who are living in the closet and living unhealthy lives. Why can't the denomination affirm their gifts and allow them to serve? I always thought there was room at the table for everyone - but after General Conference 2008, it appears the UMC table is limited in size. And God weeps.