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Saturday, May 14, 2016

DRAMA, THEN MORE TENSION

Every church news junkie knew that the 2016 United Methodist General Conference would be conflict-ridden. Disagreements over official church teaching on sexuality have been normal in the world-wide quadrennial General Conferences for a long time. 

As of May 14, 2016 the 2016 General Conference, drawing delegates from around the world, has been meeting in Portland, OR for a week and will meet for another week.

Yesterday, May 13, 2016, tensions rose to a high point in the Church and Society committee. Delegate Dr. Donald Messer, a long-time friend and colleague of mine, posted an emotionally-laden Facebook message concerning the events. Don's words:
Reducing Harm for LGBTQ Children and Youth” (DR: this is the title of a resolution being debated.)
“Unbelievable but delegates are debating whether to protect LGBTQ youth and children. Hard-hearted delegates are urging it be defeated.”
“Older white man from north Texas says ‘no one should support harm to anyone’ and that ‘LGBT children and youth especially need protection. For God's sake, let's get serious about what we are called to do. Every morning we sing how we follow Jesus, and yet we are about to vote against the most marginalized children in the world.’”

Finally, in this same meeting, delegates voted for a watered-down resolution to protect women and children.

Many of Don’s followers commented on his post. 

Here’s one sample comment, from Michael Vandiver: “More evidence of why we need a divorce in the UMC! I'm sick and tired of conservative people who claim to be Christians continuing to do everything they can to disregard our need to move forward on inclusiveness!

In every respect, these events parallel those in the Anglican Communion toward The Episcopal Church, a prominent member of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

According to Wikipedia, in January 2016 the Anglican Primates Meeting at Canterbury decided that in response to the "distance" caused by what it called "unilateral action on matters of doctrine without Catholic unity", "for a period of three years, The Episcopal Church [would neither] represent [the Communion] on ecumenical and interfaith bodies… [nor] take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity." In other words, Episcopal Church is on suspension from its global denomination.

This "temporary divorce” occurred because of strident protests by African church members of the Anglican Communion over the ordination of women and the place of homosexuals in the American church.

Why this fight between African, American and U.K. churches, Anglican and Methodist?

First, proudly independent African churches are the product of missionary work, which often was carried out by very conservative American and English religious persons. Missionaries confronted the African traditional practice of polygamous marriage. In West African (Sierra Leone, for example) one man-one wife was the prerequisite for church membership.  

This rule resulted in situations like one I encountered in Liberia, West Africa in 1960: a particular Christian man’s wives were church members, possible since they were all married to only one man. But the man was prohibited from church membership because he was married to three women. 

True, some African Christian men invented workarounds. For example, one man’s wives could be sequestered in several villages instead of living in his compound. But “one man one woman for life” is the marriage rule that African church members accepted and now vigorously defend as a fixed point of faith.

Second, African churches are led by persons (generally males) whose education has taken place in Bible schools. They generally haven’t had access to theology as taught in seminaries in England and the U.S. When an African says, “The Bible teaches one man one woman for life,” that person has probably not grappled intellectually with reconciling the Bible stories of concubines and harems with the “one man one woman” doctrine. 

Back to the United Methodist meeting in Portland: amazing things can happen in committee. Don Messer posted an update, later Friday evening, May 13. These are his words:
“Voting had to be redone at the insistence of the conservatives. Much to everyone's shock one of the petitions was supported by two votes rather than defeated by ten votes (the way it happened the first time around). So a positive resolution was passed regarding gays and lesbians-removing negative language ...  Amazing change."
“Then the resolution urging the end of harm toward LTGBT youth passed by a larger margin.
“At that time the chair fainted and the session ended unexpectedly.” He was removed by ambulance. 
Let us pray that holy conferencing will lead to forward movement for the Church and the Kingdom of God in Africa, America and globally.
Then the resolution urging the ending of harm toward LGTBT youth passed by a larger margin.
At that time the chair fainted and session ended unexpectedly.
Then the resolution urging the ending of harm toward LGTBT youth passed by a larger margin.
At that time the chair fainted and session ended unexpectedly.
from the Discipline. Amazing change.
Then the resolution urging the ending of harm toward LGTBT youth passed by a larger margin.
At that time the chair fainted and session ended unexpectedly.
from the Discipline. Amazing change.
Then the resolution urging the ending of harm toward LGTBT youth passed by a larger margin.
At that time the chair fainted and session ended unexpectedly
But other white men and African delegates spoke in favor of not supporting this basic resolution.We are not talking about the spotted owl or golden eagle--we are talking about our children." But other white men and African delegates spoke in favor of not supporting this basic resolution.We are not talking about the spotted owl or golden eagle--we are talking about our children." But other white men and African delegates spoke in favor of not supporting this basic resolution.

We are not talking about the spotted owl or golden eagle--we are talking about our children." But other white men and African delegates spoke in favor of not supporting this basic resolution.e against the most marginalized children in the world. We are not talking about the spotted owl or golden eagle--we are talking about our children." But other white men and African delegates spoke in favor of not supporting this basic resolution.


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