Remember the end of my previous rant where I suggested that perhaps “there will be a backlash against the conservative agenda, and miracles of inclusion and grace will occur at this year’s General Conference”? Well, guess what? The General Conference voted on the new members of the Judicial Council today (again, that’s the UMC’s version of the Supreme Court). The GC elected candidates supported by progressive groups such as the Reconciling Ministries Network, thereby replacing several conservative Council members who were up for re-election. It should also be noted that these new members were on a slate of candidates nominated by the Council of Bishops (which is to say, the Council of Bishops selected moderates/progressives for its nominees).
In other encouraging news from Fort Worth, the committee studying Paragraph 161G of the Book of Discipline - that being the section on “Human Sexuality” – has passed by a vote of 39 to 26 a new version of said Paragraph, which now goes to the plenary session of GC. While the new language is not yet what I might want it to be, it’s a very significant step forward. Most strikingly, the proposed new Paragraph would REMOVE the previous language describing “the practice of homosexuality” as being “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and would instead state the following:
We know that all are God's children and of sacred worth; yet we have been, and remain, divided regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality. Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness. We continue to reason and pray together with faith and hope that the Holy Spirit will soon bring reconciliation to our community of faith. The fire in our disagreements points to a deeper human mystery than we knew. We believe that the Spirit has brought our collective conscience to acknowledge this mystery more honestly, and to make our claims with greater humility before God and our neighbors. We therefore ask the Church, United Methodist and others, and the world, to refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to a new insight. In the meantime, let us seek to welcome, know, forgive, and love one another as Christ has accepted us, that God may be glorified through everything in our lives.
I predict some serious fireworks on the floor of the general session once this comes up for a vote. Nevertheless, I see these developments as a serious movement of the Spirit among the GC delegates. Continue to keep them in your prayers in the days ahead.