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'Christian Conferencing' Follows Demonstration

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    Christian Conferencing Follows Demonstration By Linda Bloom* May 1, 2008 FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) — Relationships established before the 2008 United
    Message 1 of 1 , May 3, 2008
      'Christian Conferencing' Follows Demonstration
      By Linda Bloom*
      May 1, 2008

      FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) — Relationships established before the 2008
      United Methodist General Conference began helped temper a May 1
      response to that body's decision not to change the denomination's
      current positions on homosexuality, according to some participants.

      During a press conference after a "witness" was made on the General
      Conference floor by supporters of lesbian, bisexual, gay and
      transgendered people, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United
      Methodist Council of Bishops, said he had a "deep sense of gratitude"
      for both how the witness was handled and how delegates and bishops

      The 15-minute demonstration was in reaction to the April 30 decision
      to retain the denomination's decades-old proscription describing
      homosexual practice as "incompatible with Christian teaching." One
      protester, Audrey Krumbach, read a statement declaring that the
      "anti-gay policies of The United Methodist Church are wrong and sinful
      in the sight of God."

      Afterward, 16 bishops met with the witnesses advocating for full
      inclusion and created a table for Christian conferencing and
      acknowledgement of the pain felt by some church members. "We went into
      a time of discussion, speaking from our hearts as much as our heads,"
      said Bishop Sally Dyck.

      Team-building eased tension

      The Rev. Troy Plummer, executive director of the Reconciling
      Ministries Network, noted that "today was a better day than
      yesterday." He thanked the team from JUSTPEACE, a mission of the
      church for mediation and conflict transformation, for helping
      participants in the discussion to "overcome some sticking points."

      "In shock" over the outcome of the April 30 vote, Plummer said it was
      only the team-building which occurred before General Conference that
      prevented a response of civil disobedience.

      Bishop Scott Jones said he had only joined those conversations today
      as a volunteer for the Council of Bishops, but supported the effort
      because he has "a ministry of bridge building."

      On May 2, the last day of General Conference, those involved in the
      conversations will focus on how to proceed, according to Dyck. "We do
      want to build on relationships and trust so we can use this as an
      opportunity for new hope to emerge," she said.

      The Rev. Gail Murphy-Geiss, chair of the Commission on General
      Conference, addressed the concern over the fact that the demonstration
      appeared to be cut off from the live Internet feed of that plenary
      session. "It was definitely an accident," she said. "The plug was not

      Even though it was not shown live, Murphy-Geiss said the event was
      recorded and has since been uploaded to the General Conference Web
      site, www.gc2008.umc.org.

      Decision 1032 still troubles some

      Plummer said that he was most troubled about the vote to let stand
      language in the Book of Discipline regarding pastoral authority over
      church membership, even though a majority report of a legislative
      committee recommended the congregation change the language to make it
      clear that pastors and congregations "are to faithfully receive all
      persons who are willing to affirm our vows of membership."

      Controversy has occurred over a 2005 decision by the United Methodist
      Judicial Council – No. 1032 – supporting the Rev. Ed Johnson of
      Virginia who denied membership to a man who was in an openly
      homosexual relationship. The council reinstated Johnson after he had
      been placed on involuntary leave by the Virginia Annual (regional)

      "It's very dismaying to leave this General Conference with 1032 still
      in place. That's a grief for our people," Plummer said, adding that he
      hoped the new Judicial Council "might somehow be asked to reconsider
      1032 again."

      Jones said that 1032 and a similar case cited "are in my experience,
      isolated cases" and he believes that 99 percent of the church does not
      discriminate in this way.

      *Bloom is a United Methodist News Service writer based in New York.
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