The once-every-four-years global assembly of United Methodist youths, young adults, and adults in ministry with young people was held July 16-20 in the Philippines.
Among other things, the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly (GYPCLA) spent several hours debating and voting on ten proposed petitions to General Conference.
Three of these very clearly and directly addressed the question of church approval of homosexual practice. One would have changed the official United Methodist definition of marriage from being a covenant between one man and one woman to such a covenant between “two persons.” Another would have deleted our binding denominational prohibition on services to pronounce God’s blessing upon homosexual unions. And another would have deleted the declaration in the UMC Social Principles that homosexual practice is inherently “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
All three of these were considered, debated, and rejected by votes of this one multicultural, multilingual group of slightly over 100 United Methodists, despite significant, vocal support for each.
What fared especially poorly was a proposed amendment to the first petition I mentioned, which would have explicitly endorsed “civil unions.” From where I sat watching the standing vote, it looked like civil unions had less than a dozen supporters out of slightly over 100 voting delegates.
This reverses the trend of the first two GYPCLAs, which both adopted homosexual-practice-affirming petitions. The first GYPCLA was held in South Africa in 2006 and the second was in Germany in 2010. The quadrennial event is organized by the Division on Ministries with Young People of the UMC’S General Board of Discipleship.
These recent votes also rebut the rather unnuanced claims some (generally older) people frequently make about how the church “has to” divorce itself from biblical and historic Christian teachings in order to pander to what “young adults” or “our young people” believe.
Of course, the proper response to such claims must not stoop to equally unnuanced, mirror-image rhetoric suggesting that all “young people” are a biblically orthodox monolith.
The fact is that no one person, group, or view represents everyone in my generation of Americans, let alone around the world. This holds true whether we are speaking about only young people within our denomination, those in all Christian churches, or those who have not yet experienced the radical, supernatural transformation of one’s values, direction, and very self that comes with Christian conversion. (The usual failure of people making let’s-change-the-church’s-sexual-values-to-pander-to-young-people arguments to make such distinctions is rather revealing.)
In any case, the vote totals from GYPCLA 2014 reveal that redefining marriage was ultimately rejected by quite the multicultural coalition of young United Methodists from Africa, America, Eurasia, and the Philippines.
I hope United Methodist denominational officials will remember this the next time they discuss reaching young people alongside questions related to biblical standards for sexual self-control.
Other highlights of the conference included other petitions, interactions with UMC general agency staff, workshops, worship, missionary commissioning, struggles with the increasingly global nature of our denomination, and a major typhoon.