General Conference adopts Bishops’ proposal after contentious debate

Bishop William T. McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area, views the vote on the motion to accept the statement from the Council of Bishops offering “A Way Forward” on May 18 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, OR.

In what can only be called a contentious debate, the 2016 General Conference eventually adopted the Council of Bishops “Offering a Way Forward” proposal during the first-afternoon session today.  The session began with the rejection of an original motion offered by the Rev. Adam Hamilton and was marred with accusations that the presiding bishop, William McAlilly had been telegraphing votes to delegates and had undermined the process so as to cause the Hamilton motion to be defeated.

The Hamilton motion had been debated in the morning session of the conference but had not been acted upon as the delegates went to lunch. McAlilly was asked to pick up the debate in mid-stream.

After a confusing debate with many points of order, amendments, substitutions, and other parliamentary actions, the conference chose not to support the Hamilton amendment by less than 45 votes. During the debate McAlilly was accused by one delegate of telegraphing votes through the use of hand signals, an accusation that McAlilly received but denied, saying that he would sit on his hands if he needed to.

It was after the vote on the Hamilton motion that Jen Ihlo, a lay delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference, accused McAlilly of inappropriate actions in presiding, and called for his removal from the chair. McAlilly then called for a ten-minute recess to determine the way forward.

During the recess, African delegation members joined in song in the plenary hall, while other delegates looked dazed at all that had happened.

The recess ended with McAlilly still in the chair as the session resumed. The chair of the conference’s Committee on Presiding Officers, Judy Zabel, was joined by the committee at the podium acknowledging that it had been a difficult session, but affirming the committee’s support of Bishop McAlilly and their decision to have him continue to lead the conference for the rest of the session.

McAlilly then informed the conference that the debate on the bishop’s proposal was not settled and that the conference still had the opportunity to receive and perfect the Bishop’s report. George Howard  of the West Ohio Annual Conference then arose to make a motion to accept the full proposal of the bishops in full (Hamilton’s motion had only drawn on portions of the bishop’s proposal). After additional debate, again with many points of order, the General Conference voted to adopt the bishop’s proposal by a vote of 428 to 405 (23 votes).

The proposal calls for the General Conference to defer all votes on human sexuality and refer all of those items to a special commission that will be created by the Council of Bishops. This commission is charged with developing a “complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.” The commission is asked to complete their work in time for a called General Conference to be held before the 2020 General Conference.

In response to the action of the General Conference, Matt Berryman of the Reconciling Ministries Network (a group which advocates for full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church) released the following statement:

This historic action by the Council of Bishops (COB) represents a significant institutional shift in the direction of inclusion and equality. It is just a beginning, but it signals hope to an end of church trials, to celebrating all marriages, to accepting the gifts of our LGBTQ candidates for ministry, clergy and lay employees. 

This is the first time the COB has put their collective voice around the urgent cries for change and acceptance. We applaud their efforts knowing that the real work lies ahead. We call on the Council to act quickly and deliberately and to lead the church as promised.  Today, we commit to hold the COB accountable for finally bringing justice to The United Methodist Church.

The General Conference will be continuing their business this afternoon with Bishop Jeremiah Park as the presiding officer. It is likely that the conference will be considering the remaining items with financial implications which must be submitted to the General Council on Finance and Administration by this evening for consideration at Friday’s session.

Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and MethoBlog.com. Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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34 Comments on "General Conference adopts Bishops’ proposal after contentious debate"

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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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Bob
Guest
I see the Bible saying that homosexuality is a sin. The best for the future of the UMC was to let homosexual portion to split. Their denomination would die out. With this decision all of UMC in the US will continue to shrink. Many conservatives will leave. Conservative Asia and Africa will have to separate. UMC in the US will die out unless the South splits off too. I used to be an atheist thinking I was a homosexual. I started to visit an evangelical church which told me that was a sin and I am glad I accepted it.… Read more »
guest
Guest

The delegates accusing the Bishop of ‘telegraphing’ votes and calling for his removal were disgraceful. They only did this after the Hamilton plan was defeated. They are nothing but progressive activists, whining they didn’t get their way. Expect more of this before an eventual schism 4 years from now. I’m embarrassed for progressive UMCers. What a disgrace.

David Vaughn
Guest
So, let me get this straight. The CoB, that admits they are ‘not of one mind’, will establish a commission made up of people representing all the different views and factions surrounding this issue, to come up with a plan on how to deal with the language in the Discipline regarding homosexuality. If our leaders, the CoB, cannot come up with a way forward, how will this commission do so if this commission fairly represents all the viewpoints of our denomination? Even if this commission is loaded with either progressive members or conservative members, it won’t be able to come… Read more »
bthomas
Guest

Got it! A group dominated by the left will now decide how the denomination will move forward. Can’t win in the pew. So, win behind closed doors. Got it.

Christa
Guest

So are the 110 who came out at the beginning of the conference going to be defrocked? Are the church trials going to continue? Without a moratorium, I feel like we sacrificed these folk and their communities on the altar of postponement. Without protections for them and the others who stand to suffer the same in the interim, this should not have been accepted.

guest
Guest

Uh… Why shouldn’t they be defrocked? They took vows at ordination. Were they lying then? If I sign up to enter a running race, then I hop on a bicycle midstream, shouldn’t I be kicked out for disobeying rules I agreed to?

Christa
Guest
I really don’t know what “not being gay” vows is required. There is a point to what you’re making, but there’s also a value to acts of civil disobedience. Not all laws are just, and those that are unjust need to be opposed by conscience. I’d point you to the work of Hannah Arendt, especially Eichmann in Jerusalem. Obedience to an established order isn’t always to the greater good, not does it always serve justice well. I suspect we differ on whether THIS law is just, and I’m not really interested in jumping down THAT rabbit hole. I get your… Read more »
Bob
Guest

We are talking about opposing the Bible. Futile for any human. The Bible plainly says that homosexuality is a sin. Twist it anyway but it is a loosing cause.

Christa
Guest

Well, a minute ago you were talking about rules and bicycle races?

Anyway, I’d get into the “clearly says” bi, but I’ll assume you’ve heard all that and assume that your preferred translation into modern English (or the KJV) plus the current anthropological context and understandings of various concepts nails everything exactly and everything is understood exactly as it’s always been. So okay. Okay. We’ll have to differ.

Christa
Guest

Sorry, the other poster was talking about rules and races. Those little monster icons are so alike. I apologize.

Mike Thomas
Guest

That is NOT what the Bible says. Not at all. But what the Bible DOES say clearly and plainly is that we are not to judge and condemn, but to love one another without condition.

Randall
Guest

Uh…you are wrong. Yes the Bible says not to judge others BUT we are told to hold those ACCOUNTABLE that are among us (i.e. UMC members..Christians…etc) if that is what they chose to be.

Mike Thomas
Guest

Both hateful and cowardly. Why won’t you put your name on your despicable comments “guest”?
I want to have clergy leading our church who take vows to follow Christ, not some flawed church rulebook. The BoD needs to be changed and it will be eventually.

Tom McMillen-Oakley
Guest

We left the UMC in 2008 and were waiting for something to change. We promised our daughter we would go back to church if the UMC halted the contentious language about LGBT individuals serving. At this point, she’ll be 15 (in 2020) and will have missed out on many of the milestones offered from the church. When you start whining about decreasing membership, remember all this.

guest
Guest

Yet the M church is growing everywhere in the world outside of blue states… Face it, a progressive UMC pastor that meekly says the Bible is meaningl as isn’t compelling to a potential member…

Christa
Guest

Not sure what “meaningl” was intended to mean so, dunno about that.

But, Glide Memorial Methodist is one of the largest Methodist churches at 12,600 and is continually growing. It’s also one of the most progressive. So, no, not really true as far as your greater point goes.

Bob
Guest

The statistics show that UMC is shrinking in the US West and North. Only the US evangelical portion is growing, plus Africa and Asia which are conservative. In a few years Africa and Asia will be a larger portion of UMC than the US. The role of the US will diminish. God will use other nations.

Christa
Guest

Which makes it all the more interesting is that one church which goes fully and 100%, boldly progressive in any way is just so LARGE, and growing so well.

But yes, agreed re: the trends in other areas of the world.

Mark
Guest

Christa….stating that a progressive UMC church in the heart of the most progressive city of America is growing is hardly news. The mission of Glide UMC sounds more like a community organization rather than a church mandated to make disciples of Jesus Christ….also, the mission of Glide doesn’t at all agree with the mission of the UMC as a whole. “GLIDE Memorial Church believes in a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.”

Chad Peterson
Guest

I’ve never heard of Glide Memorial Church. How do you get 12,600 members in the church. From the picture, it looks like a regular church. Do you have video relays to other areas?

Daniel Wagle
Guest

The Church of the Resurrection is the largest UM Church and it is largely accepting of gays.

Kay Hereford Voorhees
Guest
Kay Hereford Voorhees

Thanks, UMR, for the facts. Your reporting is a gift to me and, I suspect, to many of us who are not in Portland.

Charles Harrison
Admin

Thank you Kay!

Richard F Hicks
Guest
In the 1970s, in the great hall of the Kennedy Center in DC, at a national town hall meeting, US House member Barbara Jordan was asked ‘What’s the Congress going to do about the continuing _____.” The wonderful lady from Texas replied, “Appoint a committee.” What does the GC So this GC think are the new opinions are which are going to be found/expressed which haven’t already been found/expressed? This GC has taken the Jordan way out of town but not toward a resolution. The only benefit in postponing the big decisions is that of human mobility and mortality. Sigh.… Read more »
Richard F Hicks
Guest

The Africans had a healthy reaction to the situation – singing! Imagine what a joy GC would be if the only two things which went on were congregational singing and silent meditation/contemplative prayer! Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

guest
Guest

I can imagine! Absolutely nothing would be accomplished. Which .. isn’t that different that was.. didn’t get accomplished.. so, yeah, you’re right. 🙂

SueAnn DeVito
Guest

Why are we so very focused on this particular ‘sin’ and yet we say nothing of the eating of shellfish or tattooing the body? Worst of all we neglect the commandment to love one another.

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