Today, the Council of Bishops proposed a plan designed to keep the church from splintering over its discriminatory stance on LGBTQI rights. This plan would:
• Create a diverse Commission to research and revise the Book of Discipline’s language about LGBTQI people.
• Call for a special session of General Conference in 2018 or 2019 to address the Commission’s work.
• Limit, but not eliminate, complaints brought against clergy on the grounds of their sexual orientation or stance on gay marriage between now and the called General Conference.
• Defer votes on all human sexuality petitions coming before the 2016 General Conference.
We’re grateful to the Council of Bishops for making a recommendation to the body. While many of us believe that this should have happened decades ago, we know that it took guts to do it yesterday. “Business-as-usual” isn’t working. We’re glad for an alternative. And we are especially grateful for the recommendation to defer voting on discriminatory legislation.
Our two major concerns are:
- Who will be appointed to this Commission? In a press conference, Bishop Ough stated that, “We’re gonna need to have all the voices at the table, or folks will not trust or engage in anything that might emerge.” But he was not able to explicitly state that there would be LGBTQI people on the Commission. LYNC asserts that there will need to be multiple LGBTQI voices-- not just a token representative-- on this Commission in order for its work to be relevant.
- On Tuesday, Bishop Ough called for safe space for dialogue. Unless complaints, trials, and penalties stop, there is no safe space for the queer leaders whose voices we will need to hear in order to stop the harm in our Book of Discipline and our church culture. We call for a complete moratorium on disciplinary actions against LGBTQI people and any clergy who marry them.
Yesterday, the General Conference passed this plan by a narrow margin. We’d be naïve not to expect additional pushback today. No matter what happens, we’ll still be standing up for the people on the margins. If discriminatory petitions are brought to the floor, we will respond in an effort to stop more harm. But for now, we are cautiously optimistic about this plan, which would allow for unity without uniformity. We are holding our Bishops and our Church in prayer.
Our primary concern is our LGBTQI brothers, sisters, and siblings, who have been on an emotional roller coaster over the past two days as this plan has gone through many cycles of death and resurrection. It directly affects their livelihoods and their ability to belong in a family of faith. Anyone who needs pastoral care should call Affirmation’s hotline, available 24 hours: 612-425-5215
This was the cover story of our May 19th 2016 magazine. Read the whole magazine here.