Day three. 8:00 AM
The energy is lower as we start, no doubt because of the late night last night. The praise band that is leading the music is up-tempo, more praise music than hymns, but they can’t get us going yet. The room is not as full as the past days, filling slowly as people scragglier in. I see coffee cups everywhere. Sooner or later, the caffeine will kick in….
I am sitting at a new table again this morning. I have spent each session at a new table. It’s a way to get to know more people, and a way to hear different views and get a better sense of where people are, what the emotions are cumulatively. Not easy for a shy guy, but it helps me.
Our lay speaker this morning comes from Maine. She is Korean-American, a woman who came to Christ as an adult, out of an agnostic household. She is a lesbian, married woman in a church that has largely rejected who she is. But not here in NE. She speaks eloquently of the struggle of LGBTQ+ who have a faith. She talks about their displacement, their pain, so bad that it often leads to suicide, rejected by society and faith.
She told us that’s 70% of LGBTQ+ see the church as hostile. 70%. And she talked about how, what we do, or try to do in the Conference. And how by keeping in dialog, we can change everything. She talks about how what we do in New England is an example for how church should be done. It was a powerful message of the power of reconciliation. I hope they post this speech. If they do, I will post it here.
The lives of people, including LGBTQ+ people will not be saved by believing the right things, but by doing the right things. We must, she said, DO justice. Acts of love.
There is a resolution to boycott the General Conference as a statement or our stance in NE, rejecting the conference and their view of LGBTQ+. It has been declared out fo order, but the Bishop felt that we needed to hear what they had to say. There is a lot of discussion. There will not be a vote on it, but there is a sense of leaning towards it. That’s how enraged the body is about the choice of the larger choice.
What they say make a certain sense. For 12 general sessions in a row, the larger church has rejected the inclusion of LGBTQ+. What makes us think anything would be different this time? Again, there will not be a vote, but my sense of the crowd is that should it come to a vote, we might just not go, but only as a part of a larger plan of succession.
There is a large contingent that feel the larger UMC church has become a church of oppression, and there is pain, and there is anger.
There was a recognition of licensed local pastors. Licensed local pastors have a limited role in the church, and generally are limited in the area they can conduct the sacraments. They are not guaranteed a church but otherwise serve as any pastor in the denomination. Licensed Local Pastors make up the majority of pastors in the New England Methodist Church.
A video recognizing the history of the relationship between Green Mountain College and the Methodist Church. Green Mountain College, in Poultney, Vermont just this spring. There was a blessing of delegates to the 2020 General Conference.
Two ammendments are being brought up. Both have to do at looking and connecting as a conference with groups looking at alternative ways to be Methodists, and still be true to our conference’s belief that all of God’s people, include LGBTQ+ people, should have full participation in the church.
You might think there was a lot of debate, but there has not been. The entire arc of this annual conference has been about rejecting the “Traditional Plan” voted on by the larger conference These statements are not quite a Declaration of Independence from the larger church, but skate right on the ends.
I spoke yesterday of the fact that local licensed pastors not being full members in terms of voting rights. Today a resolution was proposed to give licensed local pastors full voting rights. Currently we are neither fish nor fowl. We can’t vote on clergy items, and we aren’t lay people.
This seems a small thing, but it is actually something big. Like the LGBTQ+ question, it’s something that is at odds with the larger UMC, which does not recognize the voting rights of the licensed local pastor. The resolution is also being presented to 6 other regional conferences simultaneously.
There was a lot of discussion, and an amendment to include LGBTQ+ people to this. There is a feeling that these amendments dilute the overarching question. In the end, all amendments were defeated, and the resolution passed. This doesn’t mean we local clergy can vote yet, but it stirs the conversation at the national level.
The rest of the afternoon was full of smaller, less important resolutions. The energy was mostly good and I left feeling like we are on the verge, not quite there, but on the verge of a new thing, possibly a new way to be a Methodist, that is more inclusive than we have been in many years. It’s a good feeling.