Monday, April 28, 2008

One Step Closer

The Committee I have been monitoring (Discipleship) finished our legislation early, so I took advantage of the "free" time to sit in on the discussion happening at "Church and Society 2 - Human Sexuality." The bulk of our discussion was in regard to a change in the Book of Discipline, paragraph 161 G. The amendment would take out all that is written there and insert the following:

Human Sexuality

We recognize that sexuality is God's good gift to all persons. We believe persons may be fully human only when that gift is acknowledged and affirmed by themselves, the church, and society. We call all persons to the disciplined, responsible fulfillment of themselves, others, and society in the stewardship of this gift. We also recognize our limited understanding of this complex gift and encourage the medical, theological, and social science disciplines to combine in a determined effort to understand human sexuality more completely. United Methodists, along with other Christians, have struggled to find principles for applying traditional teachings to contemporary understandings of human sexuality.

We recognize that sexuality is part of the larger human mystery, to be received and acknowledged in grateful responsibility. We reject all sexual expressions that damage or destroy the humanity God has given us. We deplore all forms of the commercialization and exploitation of sexual relations, with their consequent cheapening and degradation of human personality. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation or use of children by adults and encourage efforts to hold perpetrators legally and responsible. We call for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for children thus abused. We believe that the Church family should support all families in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults. We challenge all members of our community of faith to commitment, integrity, and fidelity in their sexual relationships.

We know that all are God's children and of sacred worth; yet we have been, and remain, divided regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality. Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness. We continue to reason and pray together with faith and hope that the Holy Spirit will soon bring reconciliation to our community of faith. The fire in our disagreements points to a deeper human mystery than we knew. We believe that the Spirit has brought our collective conscience to acknowledge this mystery more honestly, and to make our claims with greater humility before God and our neighbors. We therefore ask the Church , United Methodist and others, and the world, to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to a new insight. In the meantime, let us seek to welcome, know, forgive, and love one another as Christ has accepted us, that God may be glorified through everything in our lives.

This paragraph is of course not perfect, but its a HUGE step in an incredible direction! Most importantly, it removes the sentence that used to say "homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian teaching."

This session was one of the most intense discussions I have ever been a part of (well, I was listening, as I have no voice on the floor). I shed tears 3 times... both for good and bad reasons. As I looked around the room, I was aware that there were few others who were not moved so much at some point in the conversation. My stomach was in knots the whole time. We were inspired and broken, encouraged and insulted. We discussed our differences and our similarities, got angry and expressed love... this decision has a HUGE impact on the future of who we as United Methodists will claim to be (in writing), and as we unceasingly prayed for the Holy Spirits discernment and action in that room, I know we were heard.

This was truly an opportunity to see what Holy Conferencing can be like. There were speeches for both sides. There were memories of light comments such as "...I don't think "transgenderism" is a word..." There were intense, moving witnesses from both those who do and do not affirm this change. A man stood and talked for several minutes about the importance of Scripture as the center of our lives and that we need to prayerfully trust in what it tells us... that Scripture needs to be the center of who we as Christians are. So... we should SUPPORT this change. Another man stood up, and though he does not support this change either, he was VERY clear (and sincere) in expressing his genuine love and appreciation for the stance others were taking in approving this amendment. As he told his own story of his struggles with homosexuality in his younger years (he is now in his 70s), I truly caught the hearts and minds of everyone on both sides of the issue, uniting us as he was able to show us what it is truly like to have an "open heart, open mind" even when we strongly disagree. Friends, THIS is Holy Conferencing!

The above amendment passed 39-26. It will go to the floor soon. I pray that it passes... I hope you'll pray about it too. As we pray, let us pray that it will be as peace-filled and hopeful as the moments we shared yesterday were. I pray we continue with this amazing, HOLY conferencing, especially in regard to issues such as this that are so important and difficult for so many of us.

I could write for hours on the speeches and motions, etc that were shared in during this day. To understand its incredible impact I believe you really had to just be in the room. If you are around, I anticipate it being a similar debate when it hits the floor for the larger body to vote within the next couple of days. I will definitely update with how it goes here...

2 comments:

Dan said...

Jen,

Thanks for your updates on this and the Judicial Council elections, and all the goings-on at GC. I'm the Lay Leader of a liberal/progressive UMC congregation in Atlanta (yes, there are some!), and am very excited to read about this movement of the Spirit at GC (there's really no other way to explain it, is there?). I know how ridiculously busy things are at GC, so I'm especially grateful that you've spent the time to keep your blog up to date!

Mare said...

thanks for the updates!! Keep em' coming!

(very much jealous of you. =)