In order to assist and speed the work of the General Conference, the petitions for changes to the Discipline are reviewed by Legislasative Committees. There are 13 Committees that meet together for three days, either as a full committee or broken down into subcommittees. On both Thursday and Friday, I have had the opportunity to both observe committees at work and participate in the work of a committee. Here are some thoughts:
Faith and Order
Early Thursday morning, I received a call that one of our delegates was not feeling well and I was asked to sit on the Faith and Order Legislative Committee. This group considers petitions that have to do with ordination, the doctrine of the church and the global nature of our church. When sub-committees were created, I chose to sit on the Ordination committee. I found myself with people who are very passionate about this issue. Some of that is the result of self-selection for committee work. In the months before General Conference begins, delegates decide what committes they will serve on, being that the Annual Conference is represented in as many Legislative Committees as possible. Once on the committe, delegates can choose their sub-committee. This all seems like a fair process, but it sure can make things unbalanced.
In the sub-committee I sat on 70% of the delegates were men. In addition, it soon became clear that the majority of the committee wanted to either keep the language about fitness for ordination or strengthen the language of exclusion. Currently, according to the Discipline, a person who is "a self-avowed practicing homosexual" cannot serve as an ordained elder or deacon in the UMC.
While the debate remained (mostly) civil, it was clear that the passionate members of the committee each came with a stand on the issue. The parliamentary procedure of amending and voting, amending and voting, set the stage for winners and losers.
I will say more about other committees in another post, but for now I make this observation about each of the committees I have seen at work. The majority are working to maintain the status quo when it comes to excluding people who are gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual in specific and subtle ways.
We can have scripture wars about whether or not this is what Jesus wants for the church, but today I am feeling pain for the people who are "them" to so many of our delegates.
One of the delegates that spoke today, referred to a current news story about an incidenet at a Texas Rangers game. A couple caught a ball in the stands and while they were celebrating, they didn't see the small boy beside them who was crying because he didn't catch the ball. The delegate asked, "There will be those who celebrate a victory because they got what they want, but what about those who are beside them crying?"
Local church membership. Who can join the church. Who gets to decide?
The vocation of the laity to discern decision for the body.
Page 1344 passed by one vote allowing an appeals process in local church if membership denied.