Sunday, December 03, 2006

UM General Board of Church & Society Laying the Groundwork for a 2008 Showdown

Friday the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church issued a statement concerning proposed changes to the UM Social Principles. The proposal concerns a subject numbingly familiar to anyone who follows United Methodist politics:

At our Board meeting, the proposed language changes were presented to the plenary by the work areas. After much discussion, the full board voted 21-17 to recommend to the General Conference “While Christians of good faith differ on what Christian teaching reveals regarding gender and homosexuality” be in the Social Principles in place of “The United Methodist Church does not condone homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The board then voted 23-14 to recommend the Social Principles should read: “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant between two adult persons that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity.”

The board also proposes to remove the sentence in the Social Principles which reads, “We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

I agree with GBCS almost to the letter but am not at all looking forward to the inevitable fight that will take place regarding this proposal at the 2008 General Conference. Challenging the "incompatible with Christian teaching" line is nothing new. It comes up in one form or another every four years; the language is always retained and a lot of people leave the General Conference with emotional wounds that do not heal quickly. I imagine the same thing will happen in 2008.

I could be wrong. Maybe the delegates who meet eighteen months from now will adopt language that is more friendly to our homosexual brothers and sisters. Maybe; but I'm not optimistic. Many people, including myself, feel strongly that the church should eliminate language and policies that alienate or discriminate based on sexual orientation. But I fear that we've pushed too hard and that we're fueling the backlash. We're trying to drag people along, but those people are planting their feet. Personally, I'm getting worn out.

I will not stop talking and asking questions about the church and homosexuality. I hope that congregations who feel strongly about these matters continue to discuss them, study them, and pray about them. I'm thankful that so many United Methodist Churches actively welcome homosexual Christians and their families and can look past sexual orientation when selecting their congregational leadership. But I think that, at least for 2008, The United Methodist Church needs to set aside the homosexuality debate at General Conference. Though questions about sexual orientation and hospitality are important, emotionally charged debates about these subjects have distracted us from other pressing matters and have forced us to focus on what divides us instead of what brings us together.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You would think we might could do something similar to the Methodist Church in the UK and put a moratorium on issues regarding homosexuality for a few years. (British Methodist did 10) In hopes that it would continue to foster open dialogue, discussion, growth, relationships, etc...

1:52 PM  
Blogger DogBlogger said...

You know, I've thought of the moratorium thing. Maybe we could discuss that at the Gen x/y gathering planned for May 23-26 at Mount Sequoyah? (Details aren't in place yet, which is why you probably haven't heard about it, but it's on the schedule at and we have Tim Keel and Doug Pagitt booked as guests.)

9:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home