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Biweekly digest (April 26 - May 7, 2004)

Biweekly digest (April 26 - May 7, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Biweekly digest

May 7, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   Orlando  {0071}

April 26 - May 7, 2004
Biweekly Digest PDF version click here

Most clergy not in favor of ordaining homosexuals
[April 28, 2004 {0064}]

LAKELAND - While most of the Florida Conference clergy responding to a recent "e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service" survey agreed homosexual persons should not be ordained and those pastors who admit to being in homosexual relationships should lose their credentials once they are found in violation of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, the issue was not a foregone conclusion for some. Conference clergy were asked earlier this month to respond by e-mail to several questions relating to the March church trial and acquittal of the Rev. Karen Dammann, a pastor from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference who admitted to being in a same-sex relationship. More than 40 clergy responded. All but a few said the verdict should have been harsher and it wouldn't be the last time a pastor would admit to being gay. The Rev. Philip H. Roughton, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Ormond Beach, said the verdict and what the United Methodist Church believes are two different things. "While the verdict may be 'technically' defendable due to some imprecision of language in the Book of Discipline...anyone who has followed this issue...should have no doubt either about the mind of the church or the intent of whatever language may seem imprecise," he said, adding the verdict and its "skillful" interpretation violates the clear, documented mind of the church on the issue. The Rev. David H. Hodges, associate professor of humanities at Grambling State University and an elder in the Florida Conference, said the verdict caused him to feel torn. "I have mixed feelings," he said. "While I believe that the church should recognize and support same-sex marriages and disagree with the current position, until the church comes to that understanding we are and ought to be bound to work within [The Book of] Discipline to effect change..." full story

Florida delegates find different highlights at General Conference
[May 3, 2004 {0066}]

PITTSBURGH  - Three days into the 2004 United Methodist General Conference April 27-May 7, delegates heard opening addresses by Mississippi Area Bishop Kenneth L. Carder and Gloria Holt, a lay person from the North Alabama Conference, heard information about a potential restructure of the general church from the General Council on Ministries, and learned about the financial situation from the General Commission on Finance and Administration. Delegates also began to meet with their legislative committees to work through the thousands of pieces of legislation that will need to be resolved by the end of the day May 7. In the course of 14-hour days Florida Conference delegates experienced different and personal highlights and inspiration at the United Methodist Church's highest lawmaking assembly. Joyce Waldon Bright, Orlando District lay leader and member of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, found her inspiration in her committee meetings, such as the Faith and Order committee, which dealt with the church's stance on homosexuality, among other issues. "We have the opportunity to hear from persons from all over the country and the world," Bright said, adding the variety of voices helped her move out of her personal point of view and take a broader look at the church and its issues. The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, senior pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Cape Coral, said his highlight was reconnecting with clergy and lay friends, including colleagues from seminary and people he knew when he was a youth pastor. "The strength of the United Methodist Church is the relational connection," Acevedo said. "At the heart of the Methodist movement is the connection, not the institutional, administrative dimension, but the matrix of interpersonal relationships with other Christ followers." full story

Conference allows Florida, Eastern Angola to connect
[May 4, 2004 {0067}]

PITTSBURGH  - The Florida and Eastern Angola conferences are nearly half a world apart, but the 2004 United Methodist General Conference here placed the two conferences' delegations side-by-side and gave them a chance to strengthen their connection and relationship. Florida and Eastern Angola established a relationship through the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty and Hope for the Children of Africa that officially began in January 2003 when a three-person team from the Florida Conference traveled to Angola for two weeks. The Florida Conference's General Conference delegation includes 15 laity and 15 clergy, plus two lay and two clergy alternate delegates. The Eastern Angola Conference has sent one lay and one clergy delegate. Melba Whitaker, wife of Florida Area Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker, asked Eastern Angola Area Bishop JosŽ Quipungo and his wife, Dr. Laurinda Quipungo, for the opportunity for the Florida Conference to provide community-based health-care training for the Angolans. It would teach local women infant-care, parenting and sanitation skills and how to combat basic illnesses, like diarrhea, the second leading cause of death among children in Angola. Florida now plans to raise funds to send two trainers to Malange, Angola, to teach local women there. Angolan District Superintendent the Rev. Carlos Tchihuto thanked Florida's delegates for embracing the relationship with Eastern Angola. He said his country has many grave problems and the years of war have "completely destroyed my country," but their faith in God and trust in the Florida Conference's help give them hope. full story

Haitian-Americans see conference as painful opportunity
[May 6, 2004 {0068}]

PITTSBURGH - The Rev. Jacques E. Pierre and his sister, Judith Pierre-Okerson, viewed the 2004 General Conference both as a painful time and an opportunity to make a difference in their denomination. Both from the Florida Conference, they were the only two Haitian-American delegates to The United Methodist Church's highest lawmaking body. Pierre said his role was not to speak for all Haitians and Haitian-Americans, but "to bring another point of view to the debate." That point of view comes in part from a church that focuses on daily survival, Pierre said. "The Methodist Church of Haiti is thinking about how to save souls, feed the hungry, clothe the to provide medical care." Pierre-Okerson was concerned to see the church prioritize some social issues over others. "It is troublesome to see the church spend so much time on the debate over homosexuality and abortion, while neglecting other issues, like hunger and poverty. That is painful," she said. "So far, we have not heard anything about all the wars going on, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Palestine and other places; all those people going to bed hungry; all those children orphaned because of AIDS in Africa. Those issues are, to me, more important than homosexuality." full story

Massey takes center stage at General Conference
[May 6, 2004 {0069}]

PITTSBURGH - Attendees to the 2004 General Conference Event saw a great deal of Florida Conference delegate Mary Alice Massey. She served as chairwoman of the General Conference Committee on Calendar and Agenda. Massey, who led Florida's laity delegation, met with the other committee members each morning to set the day's agenda. The Committee on Agenda plans in detail each day's business schedule once General Conference convenes. When there is a change in the agenda, courtesy items to be announced or emergencies that must be made to attendees, it was Massey's face and voice that were seen and heard. full story

Delegates vote to end use of 'minority' in church language
[May 6, 2004 {0070}]

PITTSBURGH - Delegates to the 2004 General Conference here voted May 3 night to omit the word minority from all church language. Petition Number 41445 proposed changing the term "ethnic minority" to "ethnic persons." The vote was 534-380 in favor of changing the term. Beverly Wilkes of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and author of the petition said the word minority is considered negative by some. "Minority is for people of color, considered to be a racist classification of the majority of the people in the world...," she said, addressing the delegation on the floor of General Conference. Wilkes urged delegates to consider the issue from "the position of those of us who are ethnic and do not consider the term minority to be helpful in this day and time when we are" Florida Conference delegates were split on the issue. The Rev. Jacques Pierre said he voted against changing the language because the word minority is still relevant. The Rev. Dan Johnson said changing the language was the right thing to do. "It gives everybody equal footing," he said. Joseph Ha, a Florida Conference lay delegate, said he couldn't believe the language change passed. "I need more background on where this came from," he said. "I don't understand how it could happen." full story

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*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.