LGBTQ activists disrupted a closed-door meeting of United Methodist bishops to protest perceived discrimination against them within the denomination. Their protests included confronting bishops with signs, driving around the convention center blaring “Dancing Queen” with the windows down, and taking over the bishops’ meeting space where they reasserted their demands with a megaphone.
Members of Love Prevails, a group which works to assert a progressive LGBTQ agenda in the United Methodist Church (UMC), protested during the meeting of the Council of Bishops (COB), held earlier this week at St. Simons Island, Georgia. They alleged that LGBTQ voices were underrepresented on the Commission on Human Sexuality. The COB announced the list of individuals it had appointed to the commission on October 24.
Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) United Methodist Director John Lomperis observed in his analysis of the Human Sexuality Commission, published on October 31, that LGBTQ Methodists had already acquired more than proportional representation on the commission. “Considering that likely no more than two percent of United Methodists (if that) self-identify as LGBTQ, this rather tiny demographic getting three out of 32 slots (nearly 10 percent) is quite an over-representation,” Lomperis wrote.
However, Loves Prevails “demand[ed] a full majority” on the commission in July. Dr. Dorothee Benz – communications director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, self-identified lesbian LGBTQ activist and General Conference delegate – repeated this demand while reading a statement via megaphone during the bishops’ meeting on November 1. She said the group had called on the COB to respond by 8am that morning, but the bishops had failed to do so. She said that was “why we are here, again, now.”
“We began and ended by reiterating the demand, the urgent need for the COB to act with grace and admit its grievous mistake in how it has constituted this commission and to re-constitute it to include 50% LGBTQI people, whereby those people must represent the full, diverse spectrum of our communities, specifically, including people of color and women,” Benz said in the statement, as posted to RMN’s website.
COB President Bishop Bruce Ough failed to stop this disruption. This resembled his easygoing response to disruptions at Connectional Table (CT), which he chaired from 2013 through 2016. Lomperis reported that Bishop Ough had also made a point of “crediting Love Prevails with pressuring the CT” through these disruptions “to dramatically re-order its agenda” around human sexuality.
A 14-minute video of Benz reading her statement and the ongoing disruption of the Council meeting by LGBTQ activists was streamed live on Facebook by Love Prevails. It was still available for viewing at the time of writing.
The video also showed numerous bishops leaving the meeting. Former Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) Executive Director Chett Pritchett took to Twitter, challenging Methodists whose bishops walked out to “HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE!”
— chettpritchett (@chettpritchett) November 1, 2016
Since her disruption on November 1, Benz has continued to voice her criticisms of the COB on Twitter. In one tweet on November 2, she said she was “proud” to have represented Methodist LGBTQ activists at the COB meeting.
— Dorothee Benz (@DrBenz3) November 2, 2016