For Everyone Born

LGBTQ United Methodist Clergy: Expect More Protests and Defiance Surrounding General Conference 2019

on August 8, 2018

This is Part 2 of my report on the For Everyone Born conference held by liberal caucuses of United Methodists from July 26—29 in St. Louis. For Part 1, click here. The groups gathered for fellowship, to listen to members of the Commission on the Way Forward, and to plan for their presence at the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) special General Conference in February 2019. For Part 1, click here.

At play throughout the weekend was contempt for any rule from the Bible or based on its teaching that ran against their personal preference or judgement of right and wrong. The Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, the gay lead pastor at Union Church in Boston, shared his deep offense at being told by a bishop that it was unethical for him to live with his partner out of wedlock. “Only I get to choose how to live my life,” says a man whose vocation is to lead others to joyously obey God and to teach the goodness of His plans for our lives. He is tired of the language in the Discipline that he cannot accept, and says that “It is time for us to exorcise this evil and send it back to the pit of hell from where it came.”

Williams spoke with a directness that was uncommon throughout For Everyone Born, especially in his unequivocal lack of support for the so-called One Church Plan (OCP). In contrast to the OCP’s foundational assumption, he firmly believes that homosexuality should be a defining matter for the UMC. Why? He says justice is a defining matter of the church, and to him there is no justice if LGBTQ persons cannot have “full rights” in the church. “No, there cannot be unity at all costs,” he said in his address. Though they sit on the opposite side of the theological spectrum, Williams and traditionalists can at least agree that unity won by compromising your morals has no value.

In contrast to Williams, many at the conference were willing to express minor support for the One Church Plan, despite their deep reservations. Like traditionalists, very few of those gathered there are completely satisfied by the compromise of the plan, which they say reflects the goals of institutionalists. In a live video, Dr. Dorothee Benz voiced her concerns with the plan but said that she would vote in favor of it, given the options. She firmly believes the elimination of restrictions on queer clergy and marriages as well as the incompatibility language from the Discipline are significant and meaningful changes, something traditionalists agree with more than some of her friends on the left.

The conference viewed protests and disruptions as valuable tools, leaving open the possibility for such action at the upcoming special General Conference. Appraising past successes, Benz emphasized the impact of protests at General Conferences and overall resistance to the system. “Whatever can be won in 2019 General Conference will be won in the same way we got to this point,” she said. For example, she called the protests at the 2016 General Conference successful because they stopped anti-LGBTQ legislation even though the progressive coalition did not have enough votes “Protest is more of what got us here than parliamentary politics,” and will always be a part of church politics, she added. However, because she wants to see the OCP pass and believes it has a chance, she advocated for thoughtful consideration on how these organizations protest and disrupt in St. Louis, if at all.

It is not likely that with any result in February that the issue of sexuality will fade into the background in the UMC. Brian Atkins, a gay pastor who served on Commission on a Way Forward, shared that during the commission’s meetings he made it clear that many people will not leave even if they’re disappointed come February. “No matter what we do some people are going to stay… I think that’s particularly true of the Traditionalist Plan… it would be more defiance than they’ve ever seen, probably. The GCFA would spend all its time on copyright infringement lawsuits,” because people will not be willing to give up the cross and flame, a symbol they’ve held dearly for so long. (Emphasis added.)

Given their history of defiance and acting outside the institutions of the UMC, it makes sense that these most-progressive organizations do not plan to accept the decision of the General Conference. They see oppression instead of God’s guidance for our everyday lives, doctrine for domination instead of love, and cruelty in any view on sexuality that does not align with their personal experience. With conservatives and liberals unwilling to leave the UMC or compromise on their convictions, change may continue to come very slowly to the denomination. Let us continue to pray for wisdom, patience, and clarity on where God is leading.

  1. Comment by Daniel on August 8, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    I’d be willing to give up the church logo immediately if these annoying activists would just go away.

  2. Comment by diaphone64 on August 8, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    It’s outdated and boring anyway.

  3. Comment by diaphone64 on August 8, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I would help the GCFA takes copyright infringement, a felony, more seriously than BoD violations.

  4. Comment by John Smith on August 13, 2018 at 6:34 am

    Copyright = Money
    BoD = indifference

  5. Comment by William on August 9, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Working with these liberals is IMPOSSIBLE. Did Jesus work out a deal with Satan during his temptation in the wilderness? Did he suggest a commission to come up with a plan so the two could coexist under one banner?

    The answer to this UMC schism is right there in front of the church — the Holy Bible? Will the UMC work out a deal with the devil or stay with Jesus and the truth?

  6. Comment by William on August 9, 2018 at 8:37 am

    That is, the Holy Bible. (period)

  7. Comment by James on October 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    It is really stupid to have a conference with the enemy.

  8. Comment by John Smith on August 13, 2018 at 6:36 am

    Seeing the headline my first reactions was: And the sun rises in the east. Did anyone not expect disruptions? Oh yes, the Council of Bishops will have no plan to deal with disruptions, assuming they wanted to, especially if the voting goes against them.

  9. Comment by David on August 13, 2018 at 7:42 am

    It is summed up in the last paragraph: “They see oppression instead of God’s guidance … in any view on sexuality that does not align with their personal experience.” The culprit is in their real idea about God. God never changes, but neither does God stop loving us sinner or not. If the lifestyle is not a form of sin, why was Sodom destroyed? If I was out running after every woman, should I not then be able to proclaim another sect or segment or write another chapter of the Disciplines to accept my lacivious lifestyle. I do not accept the lifestyle as Godly, but neither do I reject those there
    -in for I too remain a sinner until I am received into the eternal glory of GOD’s Heaven. You see, there are still those dreaded words, “Depart from me…” that help me maintain my life in accordance with His Law – the Law Jesus didn’t come to replace but to prove as a man that we men and women could live by it completely. I pray for us everyone to come to the full saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Amen.

  10. Comment by Lenny on August 13, 2018 at 8:32 am

    The Methodist Church is intent on becoming irrelevant because of a small number of alt left gays

  11. Comment by Lenny on August 13, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Let the gay left form it’s own church, leave the Methodists alone

  12. Comment by John Smith on August 14, 2018 at 5:57 am

    They don’t want a new or separate and thus marginal and irrelevant church. Branding is important. Taking control of the largest Protestant denomination that endorses abortion is a heady goal.

  13. Comment by Bruce on August 13, 2018 at 9:09 am

    So, per Brian Atkins, “No matter what we do some people are going to stay…”
    Yes, some will, but how many will leave? This crap is going to destroy the UMC just like it did the Episcoples and the Presbyterians. Sure, those churches are still around, but they are shrinking, not growing.
    As a Methodist for nearly 75 years, I’m very disappointed and will leave if they go the way their heading.

  14. Comment by Joan on August 22, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Me too!

  15. Comment by Greg keller on August 13, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    If you are thinking about leaving the Methodist church because they don’t follow scripture then your in the wrong church to begin with. The Methodist has always ignored certain scipture over the history of the church. In the 1920’s outr church ignored scripture on the right for Methodist preachers to divorce and still preach. How about 1956 where the Methodist church allows women to become preachers in our church .That one decision went again more than 16 scriptures about the roll of women church. So to all of you that all of sudden found the Bible and started reading it if you want to follow the Bible word for word the Methodist church is not the church you need to be in. Just be sure you aren’t divorced, never ate certain foods, never slept with your wife during her period, never touched a football , never let your wife wear makeup or wear pants or didn’t cover her head ect ect I could go on and on but I hope you get the picture . So please leave the Methodist church and soon, for I don’t want people who believe that living on the dark ages is the way to salvation. Remember Jesus’s most important message to all of us … to love

  16. Comment by John Smith on August 14, 2018 at 6:02 am

    While there is something to your argument when you put the specific guidelines for the nation of Israel onto the church one sees the point is not clarity but rather argumentation. By the standards you just listed you should also condemn the UMC for not sacrificing animals.

  17. Comment by John Smith on August 14, 2018 at 6:03 am

    BTW why isn’t what Jesus said was the greatest commandment the most important thing he said?

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