Protest interrupts afternoon plenary

The Rev. Pamela Lightsey (center) leads advocates from the Black Lives Matter movement as they disrupt the proceedings of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. The demonstrators marched into the plenary session chanting slogans and gathered around the central communion table.

A protest today disrupted business at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Portland Ore.

Soon after Bishop Micheal Coyner called this afternoon’s plenary session to order, shouts were heard in one corner of the hall. A few protesters held a banner emblazoned with the with the hashtag all #BlackLivesMatter,” along with the rainbow flame logo of Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization that lobbies for full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the United Methodist Church.

For 18 minutes, about 150 protesters walked the floor, chanting slogans, including “No more hate,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has got to go.” Organizers said it wouldn’t be the last time there was a protest at the 2016 General Conference.

“We are not going to be quiet this General Conference,” said the Rev. Pamela Lightsey, who helped lead the event. “This is about the intersection of oppression.”

She noted that today’s event was a joint effort “This was a coalition of forces,” she said. “LGBTQ people are sometimes also black and brown people, and that matters.” Discrimination, she said, hurts all people on the margins. “This hurts black people, brown people, poor people, and women. We won’t stand for this,” she said.

Lightsey is the associate dean for community life at Boston University’s theological seminary. She also leads lifelong learning and is a clinical assistant professor of contextual theology.  She spoke to the media immediately after the protest outside the plenary hall.

Other items of note:

  • The protest began soon after Bishop Michael Coyner told delegates that General Conference costs $1389/minute. By our clock, that means today’s event “cost” slightly more than $25,000
  • Dr. Susan T. Henry-Crowe used the phrase ‘all lives matter’ in her report on the global social principles as protestors left the plenary hall. She issued a statement apologizing for the remark. “I apologize for my comment using the phrase ‘all lives matter,’ It is necessary for our church and its leaders to unequivocally declare that Black Lives Matter.” Crowe apologized in person in the second half of the today’s plenary session.


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UMR will continue to follow this story.

Laura Harbert Allen, Managing Editor

Laura is an independent public radio and multimedia producer who makes stories in the documentary tradition. She served as communications director for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church for seven years and has more than 20 years experience in public radio as an announcer, producer, program director, and general manager. She has also written about music for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and done feature work for Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. Laura is married to the Rev. Jeff Allen. They live in Charleston, West Virginia.

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7 Comments on "Protest interrupts afternoon plenary"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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So childish and ridiculous. Both the protesters, and for Susan Henry-Crowe to apologize.


I feel sorry for SUSAN – of course ALL LIVES MATTER – how childish –

Creed Pogue

Hard to feel sorry for Rev. Henry-Crowe when she folded to absurd political correctness instead of making it a teaching moment.


Sums up the problems in the church today…..apologizing after saying “all lives matter”….we have too a few leaders willing to be hated for speaking the truth.


Paul, in the closing verses of Romans, ch 1, equates homosexuality with “haters of God”. So who are the real haters?


To say “black lives matter” is to be racist against all others. All lives matter, period.


God bless you, #RMN. Sometimes, as in John 5:4, you gotta trouble the waters to bring healing. When any mention of the No-No-Letters gets a speaker ruled out of order and shut up, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do if you have something to say. Praying for your UMC.

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