Regional conferences take on social issues

During annual (regional) conferences meetings in the U.S. this summer, United Methodists tackled hot-button topics including homosexuality, gun violence, divestment and immigration reform.

Most conferences in the Western Jurisdiction renewed their 2012 support of the "Statement of Gospel Obedience," which claims the church is in error on the subject of homosexuality's incompatibility with Christian teaching. The Western Jurisdiction includes eight regional conferences ranging from Colorado to the islands of Hawaii, Guam and Saipan and from Alaska to Arizona.

The Desert Southwest Conference supported a marriage equality resolution that states the conference will support any clergy conducting homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies where it is permitted by law. The resolution also states clergy who are brought up on charges for conducting those ceremonies will be supported "spiritually, emotionally and prayerfully."

A second resolution passed was a public statement that "our churches and facilities are safe places for all regardless of gender identity and that transgender people may use the bathroom of their choosing."

A ruling of law was brought before Bishop Robert Hoshibata, who leads the Desert Southwest Conference, after the marriage equality resolution was approved. On July 30, he ruled the resolution was not out of order.

Requests for a rule of law automatically go to Judicial Council, the denomination's top court.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcao, who leads the California-Pacific Conference, was also asked to rule concerning the Statement of Biblical Obedience passed in 2012. She ruled the resolution did not violate the legal authority of the Book of Discipline.

"I find that Resolution 13-16 does not violate the legal authority of the Book of Discipline in that it does not require any person, office or body within the church to violate the Book of Discipline. What Resolution 13-16 does do is commend to bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings, the challenge to operate as if Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline does not exist. The act of commending and challenging persons and entities of the church to act in a particular way in response to a section of the Book of Discipline that is not intended to be church law does not in and of itself constitute an illegal action," she ruled.

The Book of Discipline, the denomination's law book, since 1972 has stated that all people are of sacred worth but "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."

Church law says that marriage is to be between a man and a woman and bans United Methodist clergy from performing and churches from hosting "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions."

United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert addresses the Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church during its July 2012 meeting in San Diego. Talbert was commended by the New York Annual (regional) Conference for taking
United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert addresses the Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church during its July 2012 meeting in San Diego. Talbert was commended by the New York Annual (regional) Conference for taking "a stand for justice" by supporting full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. A UMNS file photo courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Conference Communications Team.

Commending LGBT defenders

The New York Conference affirmed a resolution commending those who have taken "a stand for justice" for supporting full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Commendations were offered to six clergy for taking actions that for some resulted in church trials or complaints under church law. Others commended included those who signed pledges to offer pastoral ministry to same-sex couples and to perform same-sex marriages. Retired Bishop Melvin Talbert was recognized for his stand for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons; and for the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, who performed a same-sex marriage for his son and is facing a church trial.

Bishop Martin D. McLee, New York episcopal leader, was asked to render a ruling of law on the commendation resolution. He ruled the resolution "successfully walks a line between celebrating those who have disobeyed without advocating disobedience."

The conference also passed "A Single Garment of Destiny: Global Solidarity with LGBT People," which calls the conference publicly to condemn the spread of anti-gay hate to other countries by U.S. Christian leaders.

Other conferences affirming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were West Michigan, Detroit, North Carolina, Minnesota and Northern Illinois.

The 2012 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's legislative body that meets every four years, voted to leave the 1972 language in the Book of Discipline. A push was made at the 2012 conference to add language that the church did not agree on whether homosexuality practice is contrary to the will of God. The resolution failed.

At the end of the 2012 annual conference meetings, 15 conferences passed resolutions rejecting the denomination's stance on gay and same-sex marriages.

Learn more

View all annual conference coverage

Recent headlines

Gun violence

Sharing a story of a schoolmate who was killed in a drive-by shooting, high school student Kyle Forehand presented a resolution to the Arkansas Conference addressing gun violence. The resolution encourages churches to discuss and educate themselves on violence prevention and responsible handling of guns. The resolution was sponsored by the Arkansas chapters of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and Methodist Federation for Social Action.

The Illinois Great Rivers, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Baltimore-Washington, Detroit, Minnesota and Pacific Northwest conferences all approved resolutions calling for a Christian response to gun violence.

Divestment

Four conferences - New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York - voted in June to divest or have their funds divested from companies involved with Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

The Northern Illinois Conference voted to divest from the coal industry.

Immigration

Detroit, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Alabama West-Florida, North Georgia and Pacific Northwest conferences supported the current legislative efforts to reform immigration in the United States.

The Nebraska Conference passed a resolution calling for Nebraska United Methodists to advocate for and support the work of the United Methodist Interagency Task Force on Immigration and Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans.

View annual conference reports, news coverage and images

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Mission and Ministry
Schoolchildren drink from a borehole at Kalumba Primary School in Mangochi, Malawi, in September 2020. The borehole was drilled by the Malawi government. In response to water scarcity in this east African country, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., has helped fund the drilling of more than 80 boreholes since September. Photo by Francis Nkhoma, UM News.

Church helps drill more than 80 boreholes in Malawi

Since 2010, a partnership between Kansas and Malawi United Methodists spans over 9,000 miles and provides life-changing ministries.
Evangelism
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.
Mission and Ministry
United Nations peacekeepers from Zambia visit with a family while on patrol in the Central African Republic in February, 2020. Following a volatile presidential election there, United Methodists are offering humanitarian aid to people seeking refuge from armed rebels. File photo by Hervé Serefio, United Nations.

Church helps displaced in Central African Republic

Following a volatile presidential election, United Methodists offer shelter and other humanitarian aid to people seeking refuge from armed rebels.