TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) – The United Methodist General Conference cannot agree that it disagrees over the issue of homosexuality.
After more than an hour of passionate debate and clear disagreement, two items stating Christians have different opinions about homosexuality were not approved by the 2012 General Conference, leaving the original language in The United Methodist Book of Discipline intact.
The Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161F states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, Tipp City, Ohio, proposed a substitution to 161F that sought to clarify that United Methodists disagree on whether homosexual practice is contrary to the will of God and urged unity over division and respect for co-existence.
Their substitution replaced the last paragraph of a petition submitted by the Global Convocation of Young People after its 2010 conference.
As discussion on the petition began, many who support including lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people quietly stood immediately adjacent to the area in which delegates were seated. They continued praying, holding hands and signs.
The Rev. Maxie Dunham of the Kentucky Conference spoke against the substitution saying, “It leaves out good teaching.” “There is no reason at all to state we disagree, because we disagree about almost everything,” he said.
Slaughter said agreeing to disagree was necessary because there are people within his church and others that do disagree. “At Ginghamsburg, we have Christ-centered, Bible-believing Christians who are against this and for this and somehow it is working when we agree to disagree. … It’s making one heaven of a difference in Dayton, Ohio, and in places as far as Darfur, Sudan.”
When asked the intention behind the substitution, Hamilton replied it would not change the church’s stance on same-sex marriage or ordination of gay clergy.
The discussion around the petition also included debate about whether homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
After the vote to keep the original wording in the Book of Discipline and the session was recessed, supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people crowded around the altar table in the middle of the room singing “Let us Break Bread Together.” They continued to remain on the floor of the conference singing through a morning recess and remained as Indiana Bishop Mike Coyner called the late morning session to order.
After a report and announcements by the General Conference secretary, the protesters remained in place still singing. Following Coyner’s polite requests for the group to disperse, the group remained. Unable to gain order, Coyner recessed the session for an early lunch.
The protestors continued to stand and sing through the extended lunch break. Following acknowledgements and prayers by members of the Council of Bishops, the group dispersed.