GC2019: Sleepless, Grieving Night At The Conservative Takeover

GC2019: Sleepless, Grieving Night At The Conservative Takeover February 25, 2019

My sleepless, grieving night accompanies my fatigue and my frustration as I see yet another conservative takeover. They’ve done a great job taking pages from the Southern Baptist playbook. 

As most people who are following the events of yesterday afternoon know, the results of the voting for the order of the petitions to be discussed in the legislative committee ended up with these top five priorities.

    1. Wespath Recommendations-pension liabilities and CRS
    2. Traditional Plan, except 90042 and 90048) 90032-90040, p. 182-186, 190-194
    3. Disaffiliation–Taylor–New Paragraph 2553.
    4. Disaffiliation–Boyette–new Par 2549
    5. One Church Plan, Except 90015), 9001-90014, 164-168.

The first piece was voted on last night and passed. I’ve seen major criticism that we’d start with pensions before dealing with the complex issues facing the church, but, frankly, this was a routine and absolutely necessary piece of legislation. It clarifies what might happen to clergy pensions should a schism take place and certain clergy either be forced to leave or request to leave The United Methodist Church. It didn’t allocate money or fatten anyone’s pockets. So, lay off, folks. This was no big deal.

The slavery and the gay parallel

The big deal is what we now face: an exceedingly divided church. Think “Civil War” type divisions–and that was another time when the Methodist church split before, something which led to southern (we keep our slaves because God says we can have them) and northern (slavery is wrong in a wider reading of Scripture) branches of the church.

We are now very close to the same situation, but it will read conservative (we keep gays out with a narrow definition of human sexuality because the Bible says we can exclude them) and centrist/progressive (we welcome all because a wider reading of Scripture demands radical hospitality and open arms especially to the marginalized and oppressed and those formerly declared unclean).

At this point, and please remember I am speaking only as an observer here, not as one who sits in the inner circles of delegate discussions, I do not see any real hope of the church holding together. We find ourselves caught now in the most horrific place a church can go: a “winner take all” and “best of luck, losers” moment where it is possible that the difference between “winners” and “losers” could be as little as 1 or 2% of the vote.

Last night, the folks at the Crackers and Grape Juice people and I met and recorded a podcast. Three young clergymen, Jason Michelli, Teer Hardy and Taylor Mertins, along with producer Tommie Marshall (who is going to have one major editing job in front of her as the conversation became a bit too freewheeling) and I opened aching hearts over what is happening. One thing Jason said particularly stuck with me: with a vote clearly this close, no responsible pastor would ever subject his/her congregation to this.

He’s absolutely right. Any wise pastor would never, ever hold this vote in the congregation. When a group shows evidence of differences this great, particularly when our first rule of the church is “do no harm,” it is time to return to Christian conferencing. Otherwise, unquestionable harm will indeed be done.

Sleepless, Grieving Night

As I sought to deal more thoroughly with my emotions last night, I realized the greatest right now is grief. The baby before Solomon is going to be torn to bits, and blood will flow everywhere.

We have a solution that does not bring harm. The developers of the One Church Plan worked carefully to ensure freedom and space for all, but the anti-gays appear to reject it out of hand. I don’t get it, but that is the fact.

this fly on the wall had a sleepless, grieving nightQuick note: we just learned that 31 of the delegates are not here because they were denied visas to enter the US. And another of my frustrations just rose to the surface: what were the organizers thinking by not having those things covered long in advance?

Now, the leader just read off two pages of complex instructions about how the committee operates under Roberts Rules of Order differently than the plenary session (tomorrow) will operate. I’m frantically looking for a written copy of those directions, but so far unsuccessfully. I honestly cannot imagine how those who just heard all that gobbledygook talk made sense of it at all.

A few moments ago, a major motion on the floor: to postpone discussion of the separatist punitive traditional plan until the end of the day. Rationale: its negative effect on the US church, generally much more aware of our GLBTQI friends, neighbors, children, family members than the some of the overseas delegates face. Ultimately, the motion failed by about a 60%-40% vote. On we go . . .

Sexuality and Human Existence

Now, back to my role here: I’ve got hobbled feet by the lack of access to the floor. I can’t see faces, sense emotions, watch body language, observe the tensions that were apparently all over the place. So right now, I’m writing my heart.

Time after time, human nature shows us that we’d rather divide than stay together. And I admit that, on occasion, we do face times when a division is the only recourse. I don’t think this is the situation before us.

I don’t get the underlying hatred and horror here of something that has long been a part of human existence, i.e., same-sex partnerships. They may not have been legally recognized as marriages for much of human history, but they have certainly been recognized as part of normal human sexuality.

Now, those partnerships are not procreative. Same-sex couples cannot produce children without some artificial or outside intervention. Right now, with massive human population growth overloading the planet and depleting our resources, honoring the love and commitment of a non-procreative relationship makes sense. After all, we do let men and women marry who are unable to bear children. No fertility test has yet been required.

And the phrase, “But the Bible . . . ” can be so twisted as to say that it is OK in the name of hospitality to offer one’s daughters for gang rapes that I’m not sure of its trustworthiness to adequately address these kinds of covenantal relationships.

I hate Twitter but . . .

Now, if you want to see a blow by blow of what is going on, I’d suggest you turn to Twitter, using either #GC2019 or #UMCGC2019 or #UMC or all three and thereby lose what might be left of your mind. At this moment, delegates are starting to offer amendments to the Traditional Plan, also known by me as “The Mean Girl Manifesto.” 

Just a note: The evidence of how poorly the Traditional Plan was written appeared in all its glory when Maxie Dunnam went to the mic to offer a large packet of material to the delegates to explain all the amendments necessary to bring it in compliance with our constitutional requirements.

Now, all that material MUST be translated into Portuguese, French, and Kiswahili. The person in charge of such things said that he requested the materials two weeks ago. As he was speaking, someone hands him a flash drive with the materials in digital form.

This is ridiculous. If the traditionalists want everyone else to follow the rules, it is about time they do the same.

Frederick Brewington, a delegate from New York,  then went to the mic to read those translation requirements from the rules for all to hear and see. What a crock Dunnam, the master architect behind splitting the church, is proving to be.

You can probably read my fatigue, my frustration, and my sorrow here. Thus my sleepless, grieving night as I see yet another conservative takeover. They’ve done a great job taking pages from the Southern Baptist playbook.

I’m going to take a break, publish this and start another post in a while.

Let me amend that: the “I hate gays,” “let’s split the church” and constitutionally unacceptable traditional plan has just been passed by the legislative session to go to the plenary session tomorrow. Should it pass there, it will be ruled unconstitutional again by the judicial council when they meet again. Thus, a several million dollar boondoggle takes place yet again at a General Conference.

Photos: (c) Christy Thomas; screenshot of the live feed, Christy Thomas

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