TAMPA, Fla. - After a tense and emotional debate, delegates at the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted on Thursday morning, May 3, to keep the Church’s policy on homosexuality.
With a 572-368 vote, delegates rejected a proposal to change paragraph 161F, which currently states that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Several of the delegates, including some from the Upper New York Annual Conference, wept openly after the vote. Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Marcus Matthews later met and prayed with the delegates and other members from the area.
Gay, lesbian and transgendered delegates and supporters broke the bar of the conference and occupied the altar in the center of the conference floor until the Council of Bishops President Rosemarie Wenner assured them that the church had heard their pleas.
“I feel your pain, we feel your pain,” Bishop Wenner said at the opening of the afternoon session. “All people are God’s beloved children… we stay on your side… we are your bishops.”
She urged the delegates and the protesters to abide by and commit to holy conferencing, and then read Philippians 2:1-5 as the scriptural reference.
Earlier, Bishop Michael J. Coyner of Indiana, who was presiding over the morning session, sent the Conference into an early lunch recess and also announced that the plenary hall would be open to delegates only for the afternoon session.
Upper New York lay delegate Stephanie Deckard (center) is consoled by supporters including those from Upper New York after their vote to maintain the United Methodist Church's stance on sexuality during the 2012 General Conference. UNYAC photo by Ashley VanSickle.
The proposal that was rejected by the delegates was seeking a compromise that would have stated that The United Methodist Church disagrees over the issue of homosexuality. It was from the Global Convocation of Young People 2010 conference.
Two pastors of the two of the largest churches in the denomination, the Rev. Adam Hamilton of Kansas and the Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ohio proposed a substitution 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.
The Conference has yet to decide on other petitions related to human sexuality.
The General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church, and meets once every four years to consider revisions to church law. The 2012 meeting is taking place until May 4 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. The Upper New York Annual Conference is represented by 16 seated delegates and four first reserves.
*Maidstone Mulenga is the director for communications for the Upper New York Annual Conference.