Florida’s delegates express differing opinions in homosexuality debate (May 13, 2004)



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Florida’s delegates express differing opinions in homosexuality debate

May 13, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   
mwacht@flumc.org     Orlando  {0074}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

PITTSBURGH — Despite overwhelmingly passing a resolution on unity May 7 at the 2004 General Conference here, many United Methodists remained disheartened at what they consider the current divisive nature of the church, particularly in regard to the church’s stance on homosexuality.

The unity declaration was approved by a vote of 869-41 and read: “As United Methodists we remain in covenant with one another, even in the midst of disagreement, and affirm our commitment to work together for our common mission of making disciples throughout the world.” The Rev. John Schol of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference brought the decree before delegates.

PITTSBURGH — A peaceful protest of demonstrators weaves its way through the main assembly hall during the morning plenary sessions May 6 at the 2004 General Conference here. The group included clergy and laity and was led by Soulforce, an advocacy group that opposes church doctrine toward gays and lesbians. They walked through the hall twice, singing songs and holding banners high above their heads. In a sign of solidarity many delegates stood as the group protested. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #04-0021.

Delegates also voted to preserve the denomination’s statement that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and upheld the prohibition against ordaining clergy who are self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

Florida Conference delegates, like many United Methodists, differed on the homosexuality issue, which some say threatens to divide the church.

The Rev. Geraldine McClellan, superintendent of the Gainesville District, said she is clear on the issue.

“I am passionate in the sense of what I believe,” she said. “I believe it is incompatible with Christian teaching. I reject the practice, but not the person by any means.”

Gail Christy Jones, a lay delegate and member of Woodville United Methodist Church, said she takes her cue from the Bible.

“I believe what the Bible says,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have tender emotions for people. I just stick with what the word says.”

John Dowell, a lay delegate and member of First United Methodist Church, Tampa, said he also believes the Bible says homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

“I believe in the sacred worth of human beings,” he said. “I just think it would have a devastating effect on the church if the [Book of] Discipline was changed. I think it would result in many people leaving the church, especially in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.”

Lynette Fields, a lay delegate and member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Windermere, said the church’s current stance is very discouraging.

PITTSBURGH — Soulforce members line both sides of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center during the 2004 General Conference with signs of protest. Soulforce is an advocacy group that opposes the church’s stance on the homosexuality issue and affirms full and equal inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. Photo by J.A. Buchholz, Photo #04-0022.

“I hope for the day we can be more inclusive,” she said. “I think it is unfortunate we haven’t been able to spend time talking about the things we do have in common and effectively as a church.”

Amy Miller said she also is waiting for a new day for the church.

“Homosexuals are members of our church,” she said. “I think the church should be open and inclusive to recognize people’s gifts, no matter what their orientation may be.”

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This article relates to General Conference.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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