Special Session of General Conference
Lay and clergy representatives from around the world gathered on February 23-26, 2019 for a Special Session of the United Methodist Church's General Conference in St. Louis. The purpose of the Special Session was to discuss the United Methodist Church's relationship to the LGBTQI community. Addressing the issue of sexual orientation has been a long time controverisal topic of discussion for the United Methodist Church. The first reference to the issue in the United Methodist Book of Discipline was back in 1972.
Since the 1972 General Conference, The United Methodist Church has asserted all people are of sacred worth but the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. More restrictions were added by subsequent gatherings of our denominations top lawmaking assembly.
There were three main proposals presented to the recent 2019 General Conference. After much discussion, heated debates, and multiple votes a modified version of the proposal known as "The Traditional Plan" was adopted.
The so-called "Traditional Plan" continues the U.M.C. prohibitions on same-sex weddings and ordination of individuals who are gay. It also promotes stiffer penalties on clergy who do not adhere to the rules. The plan forces pastors, local churches and Annual Conferences to leave the denomination if they disagree with the current decision.
The United Methodist Church's Judicial Council must now evaluate the constitutionality of certain aspects of the Traditional Plan. The Judicial Council will address this at its next scheduled meeting April 23-25, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. Any piece of legislation that the Judicial Council declares unconstitutional will not be included in the Book of Discipline, the denominations policy book.
While the official vote has been taken there is much that still needs to be done to bring healing on both sides of issue. Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops (who also leads the Florida Conference), said he doesn't take anybody's participation in church for granted. "The people who are my heroes," he said, "are the people who have been hurt by the church and yet stay at the table."
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