Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah, a Liberian delegate to the United Methodist General Conference, strongly rejected any implication that African delegates were being “manipulated” into supporting scripturally based moral standards. In a speech on the floor of General Conference on May 20, he maintained that African delegates’ resolve to be “biblically committed” was part of their own self-determined “game plan.”
Kulah’s comments came after Bishop Elaine Stanovsky gave a sermon the same morning calling for spiritual introspection in light of General Conference. She analogized Christians’ need to reject sin with Jesus’ resurrection from death after being buried in the tomb. She said God could forgive any “errors” and “harm” done by delegates: “God’s love and grace, God’s judgement and forgiveness, God’s welcome and blessing, are not controlled by the General Conference.”
Among the alleged harms Stanovsky addressed was a failure to listen on the topic of homosexuality. “If you believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but you have never asked a gay Christian how they understand the Bible, you gotta get out of that tomb,” she said.
Next Stanovsky gave airtime to the allegation that African delegates were being told how to vote, ostensibly by biblically orthodox Methodists from the United States. “If you believe that all African delegates are voting from somebody else’s game plan and are puppets to a puppeteer, you gotta get out of that tomb,” she said.
Soon after, when official business began for the day, Kulah asked for a point of order to dispense of all questions about the integrity of African delegates:
“We want to thank the Bishop Stanovsky who just preached, and we want to thank her for the message, but we want to emphasize that we don’t want anyone leaving here thinking that African delegates are being manipulated to vote. Everybody in this hall should have a game plan and the African delegates have game plan that are based upon the scripture that is our primary authority for faith and practice. Our game plan is focus on ensuring that The United Methodist Church is a vibrant church that is biblically committed, Christ-centered, evangelistically functional, Holy Spirit empowered, and vision-driven. Thank you very much.”
Presiding Bishop Julius C. Trimble immediately covered for Stanovsky. “I think I heard Bishop Stanovsky asking us to question all of ourselves, and I don’t think she was, at all, suggesting that that was the case,” Trimble said. He quickly changed the subject, commending the preachers during General Conference for their work.
Despite this explanation, some observers still backed Kulah on Twitter:
— Keith Mcilwain (@KeithMcilwain) May 20, 2016
— Drew McIntyre (@DrewBMcIntyre) May 20, 2016