I got two emails Saturday describing what is happening in Tampa during the early stages of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The Conference is the counterpart of the quadrennial political party conventions in the United States, except the action is on the platform.
It amends the Church’s Discipline, a rule book about who can become a preacher, what the church’s stance is on social issues like abortion and homosexuality and even what electric bulbs Methodists should be urged to purchase.
If this sounds a bit like a political convention, you’re probably figuring out why a political blog like this one might be interested.
I received two emails from conservative groups today and will borrow extensively from each.
Good News says that “a well-funded and extravagant lobbying effort to change United Methodism’s view on marriage and sexuality, and stacks and stacks of petitions” describe the process so far.
Here’s the rest of Saturday’s report:
The Renewal and Reform Coalition has observers in each of these legislative committees and we have been tracking the petitions that have a special interest to mainstream evangelical United Methodists in the pews.
We have been publishing our daily newsletter Focus every night and we held our second breakfast briefing this morning.
The entire General Conference will be dealing with these individual petitions when they gather as a plenary group on Monday, April 30. Although, all these are subject to change within the next few days, we did want to highlight a few issues you would care deeply about.
- Petition 21050 espousing the right to civil marriage and civil unions for homosexual persons was defeated 36-39
- Subcommittee took our statement on abortion in a more pro-life direction, adding that we oppose abortion except in cases of “conflicts of physical life with physical life” and added unconditional rejection of abortion for “eugenics”
Petition 20624 was adopted to end any funding for pro-choice political lobbies (including the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice) (63-6)
- Subcommittee did not approve attempts to end the prohibition on funding to promote the acceptance of homosexuality (20-1)
- Attempts to fund central conference theological education through the Ministerial Education Fund were defeated by a subcommittee in favor of another petition that would take $5 million from World Service apportionments and designate it for that purpose
- Petitions to delete the prohibition of the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals were not approved, however, a subcommittee approved petition 20994, which replaces that prohibition with the following language: “sexual conduct that occurs outside the context of a marriage between one man and one woman is incompatible with holy living. Therefore, those who engage in such practices, or who participate or represent themselves to others as participating in a relationship in which such practices are a part, including same-sex unions, may not be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The UMC.” (13-10)
- An approach to restructuring that would keep several church agencies with separate boards and one coordinating committee was favored over the proposal that would unify all agencies into a single board by a vote of 56-27, with a subcommittee now working on the details of implementation
- Proposals to eliminate the practice of homosexuality as a chargeable offense failed (27-20), but the definition of “immorality” as including “not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage” was deleted as unnecessary
- Petition 20802 allowing supplemental women’s ministries in local churches in addition to United Methodist Women was adopted (40-13)
- Numerous proposals to require prospective church members to be received regardless of qualification were not approved. Instead, petition 20618 that protects pastoral discretion in determining a person’s readiness to assume the vows of membership and providing an appeal process to the local church PPR Committee was approved (29-28)
- Petition 20460 that permits an annual conference to use an apportionment formula whereby a church contributes a specified percentage of its current income or expenses was adopted (56-1-4)
- Petition 20875 to retain the current prohibition on homosexual unions was approved 63-10
- Proposal to establish a set-aside bishop to serve as president of the Council of Bishops was approved (49-6-5)
Please continue to pray for the delegates, observers, and all who are working for a faithful future for The United Methodist Church.
We invite you to join with other Christians around the globe who are praying that the 2012 General Conference proceedings will be led by the Holy Spirit.
As United Methodists, we are in desperate need of a season of revival, reform, and renewal. Nothing is more vital to the future of our denomination than a fresh touch from God and a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our congregations, seminaries, boards, and agencies.
Lord, we ask that a season of renewal and revival would begin at the 2012 General Conference.
[Those wishing to contribute to Good News can do so here.]
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The Confessing Movement offered this report for Saturday, day 5 of the General Conference:
Reports are coming in from legislative groups and their subcommittees. Each of these reports will be forwarded to the plenary sessions that will start dealing with petitions on Monday, April 30. Here are a few that will be of interest to Confessing Movement supporters.
- A strong statement against pornography, submitted by the General Board of Church and Society, was approved by the subcommittee.
- Petitions to change the definition of marriage to something other than a covenant between one man and one woman have not been approved by subcommittee.
- After a time of holy conferencing and a long debate, a motion to delete the words “we believe the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” passed by a vote of 14-12. However, as they often report on TV on the night of elections, “all the precincts are not yet counted.” About 100 supporters of Common Witness, the group lobbying to change the church’s position, crowded into the room. One African delegate indicated he felt he was uncomfortable. The petition will be forwarded to the whole legislative group and then to the plenary. Defenders of the Biblical stance on sexuality feel this vote will be overturned in the larger committee.
- 4) A petition to study transgenderism failed 8-45.
- 5) A vote to remove the prohibition against using church money to advance homosexual causes failed 1-21.
- The vote is not yet finalized on a resolution for the church to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), but a preliminary vote in subcommittee passed. [This lobbying group is headquartered in the Methodist Building right next to the U.S. Supreme Court. It opposes any restrictions on abortion.]
- A motion for the funding of seminary education in the Central Conferences to the tune of 5 million dollars for the quadrennium passed the legislative group. This was instead of petitions that would cut the percentage of Ministerial Education Funds (MEF) going to U.S. seminaries in order to fund overseas seminaries.
- Petitions which affirmed the pastor’s role in determining readiness for church membership have passed subcommittee. This topic became a major issue when a pastor in Virginia delayed membership to a practicing homosexual. He was removed from his pulpit by a bishop who said he did not have the right to deny anyone membership. The judicial council then overruled the bishop’s ruling and the pastor was restored. These petitions clarify and strengthen the pastor’s responsibility and right.
- Legislation overturning guaranteed appointments for pastors has passed subcommittee. The legislation will allow easier removal of ineffective pastors.
- The issue of term limits for bishops (appointed for eight years but need to be reelected for the next eight-year term) failed by a close margin of 25-28. This is sure to be debated further.
- Legislation that would require 40% of faculty at United Methodist seminaries to be United Methodist, with reduced funding if less than that, has passed subcommittee.
All of this legislation will need to be approved or disapproved by the plenary session of all delegates but these first votes are an indication of which way the conference is leaning.
Contributions can be made to the Confessing Movement here.
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The Institute for Religion and Democracy made the following report today:
General Conference is a cauldron of controversies.
But some good news.
Despite liberal high hopes, lobbying to overturn United Methodism’s biblical stance on marriage seems to be failing.
Legislative subcommittees are so far rejecting
- same-sex marriage,
- any change in ordination standards, and
- affirming the ban on church funding for gay advocacy.
One committee rejected forcing homosexual scout leaders on the Boy Scouts.
The big fight likely will be over the Social Principles’ stance that homosexual practice is “incompatible” with Christian teaching. A subcommittee narrowly voted to remove “incompatible.” The full committee will debate and vote by this evening.
Meanwhile, there is reportedly legislation proceeding that would provide benefits to same sex partners in states where same sex marriage is legal.
And other legislation, approved in subcommittee, would redefine as marriage as two individuals rather than man and woman.
My own petition protecting religious adoption agencies’ ability to place children with traditional married couples was narrowly rejected in a committee, but we hope to get it to the main floor for debate.
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Of course, there is a plethora of political resolutions before the General Conference. United Methodism already officially opposes any law enforcement against illegal immigration. But even this extreme stance is apparently insufficient. Jeff Walton reported on a luncheon for liberalized immigration polices.
Promisingly, a subcommittee has approved United Methodist withdrawal from the radical Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Please pray for God’s will at this General Conference. And please pray especially for courageous delegates, defending God’s Word, often surrounded by hostile activists.
P.S.: Please help sustain IRD/UMAction’s presence here in Tampa with an online donation of $25, $50, $100 or more today. Thank you!
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Other articles that may be of interest:
- 4/24/12 Methodist Convention This Week in Tampa – Unity Not on the Agenda
- 4/27/12 The Disconnect Between American Liberals and Africans in Tampa’s Methodist Convention
- 4/28/12 Conservative Methodists Making Headway in World Conference, Big Fight on Homosexuality in Offing
- 4/29/12 Update from United Methodist Church General Conference in Tampa – Conservatives Winning Most Votes, Setbacks for Abortion & Israeli Divestment Supporters
- 4/30/12 Good News Reports Most Endorsed Candidates for Methodist “Supreme Court,” University Senate Win
- 4/30/12 Conservatives Take Three of Four Vacancies on Methodist Judicial Council, Vote on Homosexuality Imminent
- 5/2/12 Methodists Vote Almost 3-1 Against Ending Investments (Divestment) in Motorola and CAT, Proportional Representation for Africans on Ruling Bodies, Preacher Tenure Ended
- 5/3/12 53% Reject Homosexual Liberalization at Tampa World Methodist Conference
- 5/3/12 Homosexuals Take over Methodist Tampa Convention Floor after Losing Vote
- 5/4/12 Coverage of Conservative Methodists’ Victory over Homosexual Activists Missing