At General Conference, delegates from all over the world gather to celebrate the ministries of our denomination, meet and network, discuss theological and social issues and conduct business. The decisions of this body then are codified in what we call “The Discipline.” The model for our General Conference, as it is for our Minnesota Annual Conference (that is the meeting of all the churches in our state), is the legislative branch of our government. Bishops preside over this conference.
As you can imagine, all sorts of things happen at General Conference. There is inspiring worship and uninspiring debate. There is a celebration of the faith in Jesus Christ that unites us and the disappointment of how we treat each other based on the views that divide us.
Many of us have been waiting to see what the 2016 General Conference will do about our denomination’s stance on human sexuality. This is an extremely divisive issue. At EPUMC we affirm the sacred worth of every person regardless of their sexual orientation. It’s not a surprise to us that not all United Methodists believe alike on this. And let’s just say that, like all attempts to legislate what millions of people believe, the attempt to codify this issue legislatively is doomed to frustration and division.
A report from our Minnesota Annual Conference tells us what has happened at this General Conference regarding what might become our denomination’s official public stance.
On Wednesday, delegates voted 428-405 to accept a Council of Bishops recommendation to delay a debate on human sexuality until a new commission can examine the issue. The bishops will name a special commission that would completely examine and possibly recommend revisions of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline that are related to human sexuality. The commission will represent the different regions of the global church as well as the varied perspectives of its people. Should the commission complete its work before 2020, the year of the next General Conference, the bishops would call a special two- to three-day gathering in 2018 or 2019 where human sexuality could be further discussed.
Everyone is frustrated that we are not at this time able to reach a decision. Many of us reading this memo believe it is a lot of time, energy, and money spent on a subject that we have already moved beyond. And to a point, for our congregation, this is true. Being a part of a global connectional church, like being a member of a very different, sometimes dysfunctional family system, means that sometimes that connection is more than a little messy.
Below are some links if you’d like to find out more about the many more wonderful things that happened and are happening at General Conference. And oh, the next scheduled General Conference is in 2020, right here in Minneapolis.
Keep the Faith,