United Methodist Church: Wrap-up: Assembly retains stance on homosexuality (April 30)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wrap-up: Assembly retains stance on homosexuality

Delegates pray prior to a vote on issues related to homosexuality at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference. The assembly voted April 30 to retain the church’s position that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” General Conference, which meets once every four years, is the only body that speaks for The United Methodist Church.

By J. Richard Peck*
April 30, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)

After a long and emotional debate, the 2008 General Conference voted April 30 to retain statements in the Social Principles that the “United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The final action replaced a “majority report” from a legislative committee, which called for recognition that “faithful and thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness.” The assembly replaced the majority report by a 517-416 vote.

The committee had voted 39-27 to ask for United Methodists and others “to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices as the Spirit leads us to new insights.” Frederick Brewington, a layman in the New York Annual (regional) Conference who chaired the legislative committee, said the proposed statement would eliminate a sentence that has “caused festering sores among the body for three decades.”

The Rev. Eddie Fox, director of world evangelism for the World Methodist Council, led the effort to retain the current language. “My integrity will not allow me to be silent,” he said in introducing the “minority report” to keep the church’s stance unchanged. He said the Social Principles must be faithful to biblical teaching, and he suggested that any change in the language would harm the global church.

In approving the minority report, the assembly affirmed that all persons are “individuals of sacred worth created in the image of God.” Delegates also retained statements asking “families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

In a separate resolution, the conference asked the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the church’s social advocacy agency, to develop educational resources and materials on the effects of homophobia and heterosexism, the discrimination or prejudice against lesbians or gay men by heterosexual people.

The Rev. Deborah Fisher, a pastor in the Northern Illinois Conference, described how her husband’s cousin was severely beaten because he was a gay man. That hate crime reduced him to functioning on a second-grade level and he died 10 years later.

The conference also retained a rule that prohibits United Methodist clergy from conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.

When delegates returned for the evening session, they walked by some 100 people standing in silent protest of the afternoon votes.

*Currently attending his 11th General Conference, Peck is a four-time editor of the Daily Christian Advocate now serving as an editor for United Methodist News Service during General Conference.

News media contact: Tim Tanton e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.