Methodists Reject Small Group Strategy to Discuss LGBT Issues

Delegates to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., consider their hopes and dreams for the legislative meeting. (Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS)
Delegates to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore., consider their hopes and dreams for the legislative meeting. (Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS)

Delegates to the United Methodist Church General Conference shot down a strategy that would have allowed them to discuss contentious legislation in small groups.

The vote on the group discernment process, nicknamed “Rule 44,” stretched over three days and hinted at the tone that will follow at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore., where the quadrennial denominational conference is meeting until May 20.

The small-group discernment process had been proposed after delegates to the 2012 General Conference reported instances of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people being bullied and asked for a new way to discuss potentially divisive issues. Had the process been approved, it likely would have been suggested for use at this year’s conference to discuss the inclusion of LGBT people in the church.

The United Methodist Church does not ordain LGBT clergy or allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. More than 100 of the 1,043 petitions delegates will consider at the conference have to do with human sexuality.

“I think Rule 44 is the best chance we have for an honest conversation and to move past this fear of talking about LGBTQ people,” said delegate Dorothee Benz, a layperson from the New York Annual Conference.

Several delegates shared how their perceptions had been challenged by the kind of discussions Rule 44 would have allowed. Egmedio Equila, a clergyperson from the South Nueva Ecija Philippines Annual Conference, said those small-group, face-to-face meetings were familiar to his culture.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Emily Miller

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