This is a summary of General Conference by the Executive Director of the Reconciling Ministries Network. As the Co-Chair of the United Methodist Team of Soulforce at General Conference, I enjoyed working with Troy Plummer, and Troy's evaluation of General Conference as "mixed" seems pretty accurate to me. Here it is.
Fort Worth Roller Coaster by Troy Plummer
I actually love roller coasters -- ups, downs, turns, surprising drops, surprising loops. With a bit of inner ear nausea, I'm still processing what it all means. While I'm not clear yet, I would like to share briefly with you some information. Unlike previous General Conferences (GC), where there was a direct downward spiral legislatively on LGBTQ inclusion, this Fort Worth's Future With Hope was mixed.
* GC kept the original basic membership language that was misinterpreted in JC #1032 (49%-51%), but strengthened open transfers of membership and later by a 2/3rds vote replaced a "list" to include with the words "ministry to all" in the UM Constitution section on Inclusivity.
*GC maintained "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" (45%-55%) while it added "loving caregivers" and "same-sex couples with children" to the definition of family.
*GC kept a funding ban on "promoting homosexuality" but stressed that it could not be used to "reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends" and further passed anti-homophobia, anti-heterosexism pieces that mandated providing resources to educate and reduce harm.
*Finally, GC gave us two peaks to celebrate: 1) the election of moderates to the Judicial Council who hopefully can tell the difference between "may" and "shall" in the eligibility section for membership and 2) the refusal to discriminate against transgender persons -- lay or clergy.
What smoothed the ride out on this roller coaster was the consistent spirit presence of the One Family Tree witness from the Parent's lunch, Young Adult drumming and rally, Reconciling Worship at First UMC, Good Friday "die in" and "Were You There?" floor witness, to the Easter hope wedding of Sue Laurie and Julie Bruno. We started with family and ended with family. We can't create One Family Tree by human means alone, but God can with and through us. Remembering our long-haul mission, planning for 2012 in Florida has already begun.
Troy refers to a "downward spiral" for LGBTQ people that I believe began with the 1996 General Conference and continued in 2000 and 2004. I think there is hope that the 2008 General Conference may represent a turning point.