Today, the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted down a petition that would have made clear our disagreement on issues of human sexuality. The General Conference (or 60% of the General Conference, anyway) voted to continue institutionalized discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons.
The decision was shattering, all over again, to so many people in our church. Hate speech was uttered on the floor of the conference (the translator of the speech, which was given in French, actually apologized for having to translate what was said). Lies were told. And once again, we tried to block God's all-inclusive love.
You can't block God's love.
During the vote, members of the Love Your Neighbor coalition stood around the bar of the conference, praying. One delegate rose to ask whether he would still be able to vote if he joined those standing, as long as he stayed within the bar. He invited others to join him, and indeed, my little group of three people praying was soon joined by a dozen delegates. We prayed.
After the vote, we broke the bar of the conference, moving to the center communion table where communion was held and songs were sung. Several bishops joined us in the center. A smaller group stayed at the communion table singing, disrupting the next session and finally getting to negotiate with the bishops about agenda items.
It was, to say the least, an emotional day.
I don't know what to say about the decision. It's heartbreaking. But I think it's rooted in a more fundamental problem, one that was on display earlier in the week, when delegates haggled over whether to add a quotation from Romans 8 into our Social Principles. The quote--"Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus"--was opposed by some as being too easy on sinners. Yes. They opposed adding a Bible verse because it--get this--it indicated that God's grace was available to all. One speaker stated baldly that a person's actions can separate them from the love of God.
As United Methodists, we are Wesleyan. And as Wesleyans, we believe in something called prevenient grace. That means God's grace is available to you before you even know it. No. Matter. What.
We voted on the subject and the General Conference did uphold the verse...but only by 56%. A full 44% of the members of the Conference didn't think that God's grace is available to all, no matter what.
And I just don't know how you're going to get people to love their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters if there's not a baseline belief that God's love is for all.
Here is what I am trying to remember, though. Throughout the church, on every continent, in every Annual Conference, there are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who are in the closet. Who are afraid of showing who they truly are. If our actions today on the conference floor in any way helped those people feel they are loved, that they are not some abomination, that God loves them and so do we, then I'd say--vote result notwithstanding--that it was worth it.
David Hosey is a student at Wesley Seminary and is attending General Conference as a reserve delegate. He blogs at City of...