Pain marks homosexuality discussion

Jo Ann Carlotto, delegate from the New England Annual (regional) Conference, wipes her eyes with a rainbow stole after General Conference delegates voted to maintain The United Methodist Church's stance on sexuality. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS)–At the end of an emotional legislative session around homosexuality, supporters of full inclusion moved from the outskirts of the plenary to the center and stayed there for more than five hours.

Tears flowed as supporters of full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people grieved the vote that would leave the words “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” in The United Methodist Church’s lawbook.

For more than an hour, delegates to the 2012 United Methodist General Conference debated whether or not they could say they disagree on this subject.

Supporters wearing rainbow stoles lined up around the outside of the plenary floor as soon as the session started and stood silently while the debate was ongoing. As soon as the vote was taken, they moved inside the bar and circled around the altar crying, praying and singing.

For the last 40 years, the church has not made one step more on either side of the debate. Many supporters were hopeful the 2012 gathering would strike the words in Paragraph 161F that state, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Germany Area and president of the Council of Bishops, spoke to the protesters during their vigil and then talked to them from the pulpit of the assembly.

“I feel your pain, we see your pain, and we stand at the side of all of you,” she said. “Look into one another’s eyes and see the face of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Sally Dyck, Minnesota Area, said she and Wenner wanted to offer the demonstrators pastoral support. Dyck has been leading sessions on holy conversations throughout the conference.

“We encouraged them to think about some other ways their witness could be made. We are still working on trying to do no more harm,” she said.

The Rev. Frank Wulf, a reserve delegate from California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference, was asked to pray before the session resumed.

“Those of us who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, those of us who are appointed clergy and lay, we pray you will help us find our voice, a voice with the most healing, most hope. Help General Conference to hear the words we speak. Help General Conference know our hearts and our spirits,” he said.

After he spoke, the demonstrators left the plenary area where they had been protesting since the morning session.

Laura Rossbert, a visitor from the Tennessee Annual Conference, was in tears at the end of the demonstration.

“I stand here broken-hearted, knowing the church has done harm to my friends,” she said. “As a straight, married woman, I have privilege but I am also expecting a child in September. I want my church to love my child no matter who they grow up to love. I fear my church will make promises to my child that they then would go back on because it is what they do to a lot of my friends.

“I thought the end result was multiple acts of grace, and I was moved by Bishop Wenner’s comments and acknowledgement of the hurts taking place and the humanity of those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender persons,”  said Stephen Drachler, a delegate from the Susquehanna Conference, who was an observer. “It was an important moment. … It was a very critical pastoral gesture to people who are hurting into the deepest depths of their souls. I think the bishops responded quickly and appropriately, and I think in the end it was a meaningful moment.”

The conference has more petitions related to human sexuality that have not been addressed yet. If they are not heard by the time the conference adjourns May 4, the statements in the current Book of Discipline will remain church law at least until the 2016 General Conference.


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  1. Janet

    Is there a ministry to the heterosexual spouses and ex spouses of gay people? Is there a ministry to the parents of gay people?

    Or are we only allowed to be part of the dialogue if we serve someone’s agenda, pro or con?

    What is the response to a heterosexual spouse of a gay person who is open about it, or the heterosexual spouse of someone who is closeted and says no that is not true their spouse is lying?

    What is the response the spouses and family of gay Methodist clergy? (Oh excuse me, I mean the clergy who struggle with same sex attraction of course….)

    Can a straight spouse or ex spouse of a gay person find affirmation in our churches if they are open about their situation, regardless of whether or not others agree with their course of action?

    The silence from our church, and other Christian churches (including the open and affirming Gods inclusive loving ones) is absolutely deafening to me, the ex wife of a deeply closeted gay man.

    The silence toward people like me and families like mine is deafening. And what others hear is the sound of acrimony, dischord, anger, pain – and they dont hear what I am hearing as I strain to listen for affirmation ….

    …the sound of the devil laughing at us all.

    I dont have to agree with any of you. But my perspective is worthy of acknowledgement and affirmation. There are up to two million of us in the USA and many of us are in your churches – or we have left them while our closeted ex spouses continue to play the game.

  2. R. Angelo

    Do you not read the scholarship on Scripture that has been done in the last 40 years regarding the REAL meanings of the words in the Bible that mention “same sex” situations? So much work has been done to understand what those words and situations meant in biblical times and how they differ from our 21st century understanding of sexuality.. it saddens me as a non UMC member to see that you have not moved one inch in undferstanding.. there are many things that are sin.. but being who one is is not one of them.. you need to remove your slogan ” open hearts, open doors, open minds” It is not true!

  3. Bruce Robinson

    And so the United Methodist Church contributes more than its share of the continually growing line of coffins of Christian youth who simply ran out of hope waiting until “It gets better.”

    God has failed humanity because he has not provided any mechanism — like prayer — by which individuals can assess His will. If people could accurately assess the will of God through prayer, the votes at the General Conference would have been 100 to 0 percent.

  4. Michael Moore

    II think Rev. Renfroe is correct. I think that Methodists who are unhappy with that position should join the other former Methodists who have joined an ONA UCC Church. We did and we are so glad we did. It makes no sense to suffer unnecessarily.

    Mike Moore

  5. (Mr.) Kim Batteau

    I am a retired minister in the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands. I am thankful for the decision of the United Methodist church concerning homosexuality. I (try to) love all people. There are many sins more egregious than homosexual practice. However, I do believe we who are followers of the Lord Jesus are called to follow Him in the area of our sexuality. The following excerpt from the Catholic Catechism, enthusiastically endorsed by Pope John-Paul and Pope Benedict is an admirable summary of what I believe to be true in this area:

    Chastity and homosexuality.
    2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward perso…ns of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

    2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

  1. UMNS: Pain marks homosexuality discussion « TN UMC at the 2012 General Conference

    […] “I stand here broken-hearted, knowing the church has done harm to my friends,” she said. “As a straight, married woman, I have privilege but I am also expecting a child in September. I want my church to love my child no matter who they grow up to love. I fear my church will make promises to my child that they then would go back on because it is what they do to a lot of my friends….”  |  READ FULL ARTICLE […]

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