By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—Tuesday at General Conference featured a day of angst, mistrust and protest for some while others stood fast and faithful in a deep desire for a united United Methodist Church that welcomes all and embraces the middle.
Amid General Conference business that ultimately included rejection of term limits for bishops and approval of a new Internet-cloud-based United Methodist hymnal, Council of Bishops President Bruce R. Ough made an impassioned call for unity, calling upon the Holy Spirit to mend the church’s broken heart and call all into the flock together.
South Carolina Bishop Jonathan Holston issued a followup statement reassuring South Carolina that the Council of Bishops is committed to the unity of the UMC. Several South Carolina delegates spoke in support of the unity call, noting a need to gather back to the center and keep a focus on God’s mission and ministry for the church foremost.
However, some at General Conference did not feel Ough’s call for unity was strong enough. Rainbow-adorned protestors, many holding their wrists together, marched through the afternoon plenary May 17 singing “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” in support of inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning people.
The Council of Bishops was asked to bring back a report May 18 outlining a path forward for the church regarding sexuality and LGBTQI inclusion. On social media and elsewhere, bishops are also being called to consider a special General Conference to address the issue of sexuality.
In other happenings May 17 (these courtesy of UMNS):
- Delegates referred to the Judicial Council a petition that would remove $20 million from general church ministries and reallocate them to a new committee on U.S. church growth.
- Deacons now have fewer hoops to jump through to request permission to administer sacraments. A petition passed that allows deacons to contact their resident bishop directly to ask for permission.
- Delegates passed a new formula for allocating funding to the Central Conference Theological Education Fund. All money in excess of $750,000 collected by central conference apportionments for the General Administration Fund will now be directed to the education fund.
- Delegates approved a constitutional amendment that would allow General Conference to set provisions for the Council of Bishops to hold its individual members accountable for their work.
- They also approved legislation that alters the complaint process against bishops. The new measure sets a definitive timeline of 180 days to try to resolve a complaint in the denomination’s supervisory process within the College of Bishops. The legislation also allows the Council of Bishops at any time to remove the complaint from the College of Bishops with a two-thirds vote of the council.
Check back Wednesday night for the next General Conference wrap-up.
Brodie is editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.