It is a leaner morning to which we awaken. We have before us a slew of legislation characterized by chaos and hostility, not by Christian virtue. Yesterday’s session seemed to set us back in the pursuit of justice for God’s LGBTQ beloveds.
And yet the Spirit still moved. In an act of solidarity, LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies on the floor cleared the way for the Simple Plan to be considered and debated before the committee. We heard the impassioned, varied, and beautiful voices of our siblings warning against unholy harm and exclusion, claiming their beloved-ness, and beseeching the body for another chance to be the Church. The Spirit swept through the floor and the stands to bring LGBTQ advocates to stand in support of their siblings and each other. The Spirit led its children in song. The atmosphere changed.
Now, as the last day of General Conference 2019 unfolds before us, we put on the armor of God and stand in spirit or in body to face the day in solidarity with our siblings around the connection. We rise against our old and familiar enemy, colonialism, and its many symptoms, including homophobia and transphobia. By the grace of God, we rise.
What’s Happening Today: Plenary Session and Final Voting
Today, delegates will meet for the final day of deliberations as a plenary (whole assembly) session to act upon the items passed out of committee the previous day. The actions are used to update the Book of Discipline.
During this time, bishops, delegates, and staff will gather on the floor. Observers will be located in the seating and outer concourse areas of The Dome at the America’s Center.
You can live-stream the event at www.umc.org/live.
Today (Tuesday, Feb. 26)
6:30a.m. - 8:20a.m.: LYNC Breakfast (come one, come all!) - Soulard (HI)
8:00a.m. - 8:20a.m.: Opening Worship
8:20a.m. - 12:30p.m.: Morning Session 1 and 2
10:30a.m. - 3:00p.m.: Massage Chair - Washington/Broadway (HI)
1:30p.m. - 6:30p.m.: Afternoon Session 1 and 2, Worship
6:30p.m. - 8:00p.m.: IESDG Planning Meeting - Soulard (HI)
7:00p.m. - 8:00p.m.: LYNC Coffee House - Washington/Broadway (HI)
8:30p.m. - 9:30p.m.: Koinonia Reflection Groups facilitated by David Meredith - LaClede (HI)
Tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
9:00a.m.: LYNC Worship Service of Healing & Hope - Washington/Broadway (HI)
Photos by United Methodist News Service
Recap: Debate on Petitions and Plans in Legislative Committee
By Connie Hartline
Well friends, today, the third day of General Conference and second day of the legislative session, was not easy. As people of faith, our day began with worship and hope. Sunday’s session ended with the postponement of debate on the Traditional Plan when the committee chair decided 55 minutes would not be enough time to take up the matter, but we came to the Dome filled with anticipation today. Unfortunately, the day ended in disappointment and distress.
Many of you have probably already heard what transpired, so my report will be less detailed than Max’s great article yesterday. Instead, I want to share what I saw and felt in the arena today. Frustration is one of the first things I felt. In part, this was due to not having read every report delegates deal with. Consequently, when they get up to speak, what they say seems like secret code for observers. Then, although the first order of business was consideration of the Traditional Plan, several amendments, questions, and Points of Order were raised, which consumed two hours before they got close to a vote on the plan—while those of us in the gallery were anxious for them to “just get on with it.” However, when they did, we wished they would just take it back. The Traditional Plan was accepted by a margin of 461 to 359. However, a motion to send all approved items to the Judicial Council may have ramifications for the plan, which has previously been declared substantially unconstitutional in some sections.
The next orders of business involved two petitions regarding matters of disaffiliation. It is more than a little disconcerting to listen to leaders in the church I’ve loved for six decades debate exit strategies for our churches and pastors. Judging by the demeanor of people around me, I wasn’t alone. The issues the delegates were dealing with are important: will pastors’ pensions be protected, are they portable, what penalties will be extracted, will conference pension funds be adversely affected; or how can a congregation leave the denomination and retain the church’s physical assets? Although it is unclear which “side” might be leaving, the discussions were so all-consuming that we “progressives” became fearful with the realization that exits seemed to be almost a foregone conclusion. As one delegate put it, “I see a withering away of our intention to stay together.” The rest of the day didn’t allay our fears.
Of course, many of us were there to hear the debate on the One Church Plan. We took comfort in the eloquent words of a delegate who made the point that the traditionalist and progressive lenses of personal holiness vs being a light to the nations is intrinsic to the greatest commandment, and the traditionalists’ emphasis on sanctifying grace is balanced by Wesley’s concept of prevenient grace to which progressives are drawn. However, an opposing delegate misinterpreted Jesus’ comment about marriage being between one man and one woman, and then asserted that it is better for the denomination to be divided for the “right” reasons than to be united for the wrong ones. Another warned this plan would open the way to same sex marriage, and if we wanted to preserve the church, this plan would not be the way. After all the amendments and Points of Orders were haggled over and the final vote was taken, 386 votes affirmed the plan and 436 voted against it. The disappointment was palpable in the gallery, but it is likely a minority report will be presented at the plenary session tomorrow. While we haven’t won the day, we are not going away.
Another setback centered on the Simple Plan, which almost didn’t get a hearing when a motion was made late in the day to reject the remaining petitions. But several delegates stepped up and passionately fought to separate the Simple Plan from the bundle. Ultimately, the plan was defeated 323 to 494, but in the midst of the struggle passion was renewed. One pastor implored delegates to avoid doing more harm to our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters by refusing to take time to even discuss the plan. A lesbian pastor argued for the Simple Plan as a way toward making our churches a sacred space for children of God and to help keep people like her from having to hide who they are while they give their lives to the Lord. Then, the crowning moments came when the witness of JJ Warren, a young gay man from the Upper New York Conference, brought most of the gallery to their feet cheering, applauding and singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Saying he goes to the least religious college in America, he has seen lives changed on that campus when they were brought to the truth that God did love them even though their churches had told them God didn’t. As the session adjourned, there were tears and hugs, singing, and lamenting and as I was leaving the gallery, I heard one woman tell a companion, “No matter what other people say, Jesus loves us.” Because of that, I expect the gallery will be full on day four of the conference.
LYNC Volunteer Spotlight: Barbara Vann
Barbara Vann is an artist and a member of Binghampton United Methodist Mission, a reconciling community in Memphis, TN. Barbara felt called to be present and be in ministry while at General Conference. "I am here to be a loving listener. I knew there would be people hurt and upset about the conversation going on. ... It's a spiritual gift to just love persons right here." They continued, "I am being faithful to the Spirit that created me." Barbara hopes General Conference ratifies a plan that opens up the connection to include all persons.
Interviewed by Anthony Stauder
LYNC Volunteer Spotlight: Noriko Lao and Jan Catrell
Jan Catrell, deaconess and member of Garden Street UMC in Bellingham, WA, felt compelled to come to General Conference and volunteer for the Love Your Neighbor Coalition, "I've been listening and reading, and I've heard our leaders talk about it, and I wanted to be present for this historic event." Jan continued, "I think what we really want to see is the Holy Spirit at work among us." Noriko Lao, also from Whatcom County, WA and member of Lynden UMC, nodded, "I hope we can stay together and move forward." Noriko, who Jan describes as an extraordinary volunteer, is a deaconess, leader in United Methodist Women, and Volunteer in Mission.
Interviewed by Anthony Stauder
Donate to Local St. Louis Ministries
Did you bring items to donate to local St. Louis ministries benefitting individuals and families experiencing homelessness? Please bring your items to the Love Your Neighbor Coalition offices in the Holiday Inn (811 N 9th St.) across the street from the Convention Center.
Thank you to all of you who’ve brought and are bringing items or funds for donation! All of God’s beloveds are deserving of dignity, comfort, and hope. LYNC is glad to partner with the Emergency Winter Warming Shelter at AmeriCorps St. Louis for this project. The Warming Shelter is one of eleven emergency shelters that partner with the Winter Outreach Group to ensure that St. Louis’ most vulnerable individuals have a warm place to sleep and food to eat during nights when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. This is an LGBTQ-affirming organization and one of the only shelters in the area that lets couples and families (including pets) stay together.