- Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network -
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The 2012 General Conference missed following the Great Commandment to Love Your Neighbor up close, face to face, respectfully affirming diversity and difference, and walking hand in hand towards Jesus. Putting powerful worship messages into practical living together proved to be too big of a leap. Even the attempted Holy Conversations violated our core value to "Do No Harm."
Antigay policies remain intact. Thirty-eight more votes were needed to tell the truth - that the UMC is divided on justice for LGBT people. In 2008, 45.4% of delegates voted for language naming significant disagreement in Christian teaching regarding the practice of homosexuality. In 2012, 46.2% (439 of 952) voted for to say we disagree as a church, pastors of two of the largest growing mega-congregations in the US.
This nearly 1% gain is revealing considering that the explosive growth of our world church decreased US votes by 10%. If I believe the myth that there is no support for inclusion outside the US, I would have to believe that 439 of 606 US delegates or 72.4% voted to tell the truth. But neither the world church, nor the US church is monolithic.
Though I believe we won the US church by 60%, what does that mean when United Methodists still live under antigay policies and continue to be bullied, assaulted, raped, incarcerated, and driven to suicide in neighborhoods, rural and urban, where we have United Methodist churches around the world? We celebrate the inclusion of gender identity in our anti-violence paragraph (162), but when having a United Methodist Church nearby doesn’t make the road to Jericho any safer, just how are we transforming the world?
What can your congregation, district, annual conference do? How can you make the Road to Jericho in your own backyard safer? Some efforts are already underway: recruiting more Reconciling United Methodists, supporting congregations in inclusion, training reconciling coaches, organizing in annual conferences, building relationships in central conferences.
On May 4, 15 bishops gathered in the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle to support Bishop Melvin Talbert as he proclaimed:
“… the derogatory language and restrictive laws in our Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience…the time has come to call for …'An Act of Biblical Obedience' based on the two-fold commandment of Jesus: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart; with all your mind; with all your soul and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” …I call on the more than 1,100 clergy who have signed the pledge to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages between same-sex couples in the normal course of their pastoral duties, …(and) to invite your congregations to support and help you in your efforts to be faithful to the gospel by taking actions to support you in using local church facilities for such marriages.”
How will your neighborhood regard unjust policies as immoral --for laypersons, clergy, and bishops—and take action?