Rally urges inclusion regardless of sexual identity

Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusion in The United Methodist Church pray as delegates to the denomination's 2008 General Conference walk to legislative committee rooms.
Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusion in The United Methodist Church pray as delegates to the denomination's 2008 General Conference walk to legislative committee rooms.

"Change is coming," says one young adult leader who says The United Methodist Church is getting closer to welcoming everyone regardless of their sexual identity.

"Don't worry; it will happen because nothing can stop the force of this generation," said Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, chairperson of the United Methodist Student Movement.

Rachel Birkham-Rommelfanger speaks at a rally at First Christian Church. A UMNS photo by Maile Bradfield.

Birkhahn-Rommelfanger was among speakers who addressed more than 200 people gathered for a noon rally on April 26 to support inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the denomination.

The rally took place outside of the Fort Worth Convention Center, where the 2008 United Methodist General Conference is meeting April 23-May 2. The church's top legislative body will decide policy for the denomination for the next four years and is expected to vote on legislation dealing with membership and ordination of homosexuals.

The church's law book states "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."

The Division on Young People, United Methodist Board of Discipleship, is sponsoring one resolution that asks the denomination to offer membership "to all who have been baptized and those who have professed their faith regardless of age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation."

"We are offering bold pieces of legislation," said Theon Johnson III, co-chair of the division. "We are not called to do church but to be the church."

Supporters of Reconciling Ministries Network march in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. A UMNS photo by Maile Bradfield.

Shalom Agtarap, a member of Young Adult Seminarians Network, Board of Higher Education and Ministry, asked the young people to remember that General Conference is a "family meeting."

"How would you speak to your mother or your father?" she asked. "In our discussion, remember you are talking to members of the same family."

"We all have a special interest in God's justice," said Bryan Schlemmer, coordinator of On Fire, a young adult group within the Methodist Federation for Social Action. "My salvation depends on your salvation."

Young people drummed for 24 hours leading up to the noon rally. After the event, participants went inside the convention center and prayed outside of conference rooms as delegates worked on legislation.

*Gilbert isa news writer for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

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