LAKELAND – It was deja vu Friday for a resolution that would have called for Florida United Methodists to encourage women considering abortion to view a sonogram of their unborn child before going through with the procedure.
The proposal, put forth by members of Florida Lifewatch, stirred lively debate and was voted down at last year’s Annual Conference. This year, after a show of hands failed to indicate a clear decision, ushers had to count raised hands of voting members aisle by aisle to determine the will of the majority. The proposal failed again, this time 409 to 304.
|Bishop Ken Carter, right, presides over discussion of proposed resolutions at Annual Conference 2014. Photos by Cindy Skop.|
Also drawing strong opinions was a proposal to “implore” the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) to stop effectively blocking students who have acquired legal status under the federal DREAM Act of 2012 from qualifying for certain scholarships and loans available through The United Methodist Church. Members ended by adopting that resolution.
In the case of the Lifewatch proposal, two speakers objected to the resolution, fearing it would be seen as a form of “coercion.”
Rev. Gene Maddox, pastor of First UMC, Brooksville, and a co-founder of Lifewatch, said the resolution was never intended to imply coercion but rather love and concern for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.
The second resolution put before voting members was presented by Oscar Negron, vice president of the Florida Conference Hispanic Assembly. He said church leaders paved the way for young people born to undocumented immigrants and raised in the U.S. to be considered for education financing at Methodist-affiliated colleges and universities with a 2008 General Conference mandate eliminating U.S. citizenship or legal status as a requirement.
However, Negron said, GBHEM continues to classify students known as “DREAMERS” as international students, which requires them to be members of a Methodist conference outside the U.S. to successfully apply for funding programs. As most of them have not lived outside the States and have no ties to churches elsewhere, the classification creates a requirement the students can’t meet.
|Rev. Nancy Mayeux, pastor of Union Street UMC, Clearwater, speaks in favor of a proposal to ease eligibility requirements for United Methodist scholarship programs for children of immigrants.|
Some members who spoke against the proposal objected to the language, while others complained that the resolution language had been distributed only the day before, and the request for a vote seemed to be rushed.
At least one member said he did not want to take action that seemed to support immigrants who skirt the legal requirements for U.S. residency and citizenship.
“I would rather give money to people who are here legally,” he said. “I have a big problem with rewarding people who break the laws of the land.”
But Rev. Nancy Mayeux, pastor at Union Street UMC, Clearwater, said she has watched children who are baptized and remain fully engaged in her church from youth group forward be denied scholarships because of the situation described by Negron.
“We have a lot of students in our church who would be impacted by this,” she said.
The resolution passed without requiring a hand-count.
Florida Bishop Ken Carter complimented attendees on the way they handled their differences.
“You really have modeled Christian conversation,” he said.
-- Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection.