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Demonstrators Call Church's 'Anti-Gay' Policies Sinful

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    Online videos of the demonstration at General Conference are available: Witness (Complete) Windows Media
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2008
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      Online videos of the demonstration at General Conference are

      Witness (Complete)

      Windows Media

      Holy Witness Floor Demonstration Excerpt

      Windows Media

      The direct link to "General Conference Sights and Sounds," which has
      links the audio/video of the demonstration is:

      Demonstrators Call Church's 'Anti-Gay' Policies Sinful
      May 1, 2008
      By Linda Green*

      FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)—In an act of witness in front of delegates
      to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, more than 200 people
      declared that the denomination's policies and practices against
      homosexuality are "sinful" and that "sexuality is a gift from God."

      Primarily dressed in black, demonstrators walked onto the legislative
      floor at the Fort Worth Convention Center, formed a two-lined cross
      around the communion table located in the center aisle and draped it
      in a black shroud to witness against the church's stance on
      homosexual practice. They entered silently, but once all
      demonstrators were in place, they sang, "Were You There When They
      Crucified My Lord?"

      The black shroud and the black worn by the demonstrators
      to "recognize our brokenness" and "to acknowledge that the body is
      broken," said Audrey Krumbach, who read a statement during the

      The 15-minute demonstration was in reaction to the April 30 decision
      to retain the denomination's decades-old proscription in the Social
      Principles and other parts of the Discipline describing homosexual
      practice as "incompatible with Christian teaching."

      Delegates voted 501-417 to keep the stance and also passed a
      resolution against homophobia and heterosexism, saying the church
      opposes "all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender,
      gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation."

      One witness, speaking on behalf of the protesters, told the General
      Conference that when The United Methodist Church refuses to accept
      and honor everyone's call to professional ministry, it refuses to
      abide by the rules of Methodism's founder John Wesley: do no harm, do
      good and stay in love with God.

      "We are part of God's living body in today's world, but our United
      Methodist Church refuses to accept what God has already done; refuses
      to keep covenant with its own words in the baptismal promise …
      refuses to open its hearts, minds and doors," said Krumbach, formerly
      a member of the North Georgia Conference and a student at Garrett
      Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill.

      She said those outside the church have noticed "the church truly
      scapegoating" people "on the altar of so-called unity" and "the
      closeting (of) the LGBTQ people who faithfully serve the church."

      Krumbach declared that the "anti-gay policies of The United Methodist
      Church are wrong and sinful in the sight of God" and in the act of
      witnessing "we reject the lie that homosexuality is a sin and that by
      standing, we affirm that sexuality is a good gift of God."

      'Wrenching' decisions

      The demonstration was a compromise between General Conference
      officers, the Council of Bishops and leaders of groups advocating the
      full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in
      the church. There had been plans for a large-scale demonstration
      reminiscent of those at the 2000 General Conference in Cleveland,
      where people participated in acts of civil disobedience and were
      arrested. At the 2004 conference in Pittsburgh, a demonstration was
      held on the assembly floor.

      Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the Council of Bishops, said some
      decisions made by General Conference delegates have been "more
      wrenching than others to all the members of this body and the whole
      church, including your bishops."

      He read a statement to the conference to demonstrate that the
      bishops, in a time of crisis, remain focused on their leadership
      roles and their pastoral duties and to recall the messages of hope
      offered throughout the General Conference.

      "It was our conviction that being in holy conferencing means
      listening deeply and sensitively to voices you might otherwise not
      hear" and "identify ways in which the votes and the desire for a
      witness was affecting the life of the council," he said.

      The "sensitive listening" that the bishops have been involved in led
      them to reaffirm their covenant to love, preach, serve, live by
      Wesley's three rules and to lead all United Methodists, Palmer said.

      During the witness, bishops who have different perspectives around
      the issue of sexual identity moved within, around and outside the
      demonstrators to live out their pastoral role among the body.

      Twelve bishops, paralleling the 12 disciples, met with 12 of the
      demonstrators to maintain the covenant of holy conferencing and keep
      conversation going toward wholeness. The bishops who are meeting with
      the demonstrators are not of one mind but are of one heart in seeking
      the wholeness of the body of Christ and the denomination, Palmer said.

      While the demonstration occurred, the presidents of the council –
      Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, whose tenure ended during General
      Conference; Palmer, the newly installed president; and Bishop Larry
      Goodpaster, the president-designate – stood behind the altar table
      with arms lifted and hands clasped together as they prayed for the
      conference and for the activity taking place.

      "This was a symbolic act of our praying for the whole body. It was
      not intended to be a protest. It was a sign of leading a community in
      prayer," Palmer said. "It was to say that these are people, we are
      people and we are all trying to be disciples of Christ."

      Comparisons to Central Jurisdiction

      Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert, a former ecumenical officer of the
      Council of Bishops, reminded the conference of the church's 1939
      action, when the denomination segregated black Methodists into the
      Central Jurisdiction.

      "That action was wrong. That action was a sin against God," and in
      making the decision on April 30, the General Conference "has taken an
      action that is wrong," he said. The segregated jurisdiction was
      dissolved in 1968.

      Prior to asking the General Conference to reconsider its April 30
      vote, Talbert said that those in the former Central Jurisdiction
      lived within a structure and were able to repair broken relationships
      with the church. That has not been the case with those with differing
      sexual identities, he said.

      "We have chosen to leave them out rather than invite them in to work
      out our relationships. … I can do no other than to say what is on my
      heart. General Conference, General Conference, this is wrong. I
      invite you to reconsider."

      Palmer found Talbert's statements surprising but said he could
      understand the content. Comparisons of sexual rights, civil rights
      and the Central Jurisdiction are nothing new, he said.

      Some delegates stood in solidarity with the witnesses, and others
      remained seated because they did not support the witness.

      'I make no apology'

      North Georgia Bishop Lindsey Davis expressed thanks for the way the
      leadership team of the Council of Bishops allowed the witnesses to
      voice their concerns and their hurts, but he refuted Talbert's
      assertion that The United Methodist Church is wrong in upholding its
      stance against homosexuality.

      "I think the church is right. I think we are very much in sync with
      historic Christianity and very much in sync with 99.9 percent of
      Christians in the world," he said. "I make no apology for our
      position. It is biblical, and it is in keeping with 2,000 years of
      Christian tradition."

      The church's stance is compassionate, he said, but those who
      participated in the act of witness may not have that perspective and
      use civil rights as an argument for inclusion.

      "I definitely disagree with Bishop Talbert on that matter. … I do not
      think it has anything to do with civil rights," Davis said. He added
      that the church takes great strides to protect the civil rights of
      all people.

      "I will go to the mat to protect the civil rights of all of these
      persons who protested today, but I don't think you can equate the
      two," he said. "If you do, it is doing a disservice to the civil
      rights movement of the 1960s and on."

      'All children of God'

      Eunice Musa Iliya, a delegate from Nigeria and a student at Claremont
      (Calif.) School of Theology, stood in support of the witness, despite
      being admonished by other members of the Nigerian delegation. "My
      delegation remained seated because they believe that it is
      incompatible with Christian teaching," she said.
      Iliya found being the lone supporter "terrible" because "they are not
      happy with what I did." She stood "to support my fellow brothers and
      sisters who are a part of this body. . .. They are all children of
      God, and we should support them and give them opportunity to be in
      the same place where God has called us to be."

      The show of support from General Conference delegates made
      demonstrator Becca Cramer of Claremont, Calif., cry tears of joy. "To
      see allies and all the delegates who were willing to stand with us
      despite the reasons others were giving them to sit down, and despite
      what may happen to them because of their solidarity, gives me so much
      hope that the future of our church will live into Christ's vision and
      will stop being the broken church that we are now."

      Palmer advised Iliya and other delegates who are being chastised for
      their display of solidarity to "hold to God's unchanging hand." He
      also advised those who are marginalizing members of their delegations
      for supporting the demonstration "to take great care to understand
      the complexities of reasons as to why anyone stands."

      'We were held captive'

      The Rev. Chappell Temple of the Texas Conference said there were
      numerous delegates who were "dismayed, saddened and outraged" at the
      act of witness. People are questioning whether such action would have
      occurred if the General Conference would have changed its stance on
      homosexuality, he said.

      Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey, the presiding bishop prior to the
      action, halted the legislative assembly and recessed the conference.
      Chappell said, "He should have said those wishing to leave can do so.
      We were held captive. The altar was desecrated; the singing was
      presumptuous, self-righteous and accusatory."

      While noting the pain resulting from the church's decision and
      stance, Temple also said it was wrong to lay guilt on those trying to
      follow Christ and listen to Christ. "I understand that the (act of
      witness) was a compromise, and what was allowed was simply blackmail,
      it was extortion" and was disrespectful to people of different

      "For a person to give a long, one-sided speech, and for a bishop to
      speak and call for reconsideration, goes against everything that we
      hold together and as holy covenant," he said.

      During the witness, Krumbach said the voices of gay, lesbian,
      bisexual, transgender and queer people have not been heard, but
      Chappell disagrees. "They have made witness the entire week," he
      said. "No one is happy about where we are, and their demonstration
      implied that somehow we've heaped burning coals on them."

      Delegates, he said, are trying to hold the church together "not for
      artificial unity, but for a unity of heart that strikes at the very
      root of Christian conference."

      Some delegates and visitors questioned why the event was not streamed
      live on the Web along with the General Conference business sessions.
      McCleskey told delegates the witness event was not streamed because
      it occurred during a recess, and normal procedure during the breaks
      is for the streaming video to be replaced by an image of the
      assembly's logo. However, he said, the witness event was recorded and
      the video would be posted by United Methodist Communications on the
      General Conference Web site, www.gc2008.umc.org.

      *Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in
      Nashville, Tenn.
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