General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Fla.
Holston delegates joined others in weathering debate and disagreement on two items stating Christians have different opinions about homosexuality -- followed by a decision to leave the current language in The Book of Discipline intact. (See UMNS report.)
A subsequent gay-rights protest closed the General Conference session, adding tension to an already tense day. (See UMNS report.)
Del Holley, head of the Holston delegation, and the Rev. Carol Wilson, vice chair, released the following statement in the early evening:
"Since 1972, every General Conference of the United Methodist Church has considered petitions regarding statements in our 'Social Principles' about human sexuality. Because of the issues raised in this debate, these petitions generate a high level of interest and passion in local congregations.
"This morning we voted to retain the Book of Discipline's current statement on the practice of homosexuality rather than change that languge. The vote followed extensive conversation in legislative committee and subcommittee, informal times of holy conferencing among delegates, and debate on the plenary floor.
"Our prayer for all actions of the General Conference is that the church will respect our process and continue to serve faithfully in light of the decisions made, even on issues where there is disagreement and continuing conversation. The Holston Conference delegation is grateful for the care and prayerful support of our work at General Conference and joins with our sisters and brothers at home in seeking God's grace in our lives and witness."
Swanson on stage
Bishop James Swanson, Holston resident bishop, served as presiding bishop during the May 3 evening plenary session.
The original schedule called for Swanson to preside during homosexuality-related legislative discussions. However, a change in plans caused him to lead the following actions:
- Referred to the Judicial Council a ruling related to paragraph 602.4. The petition provided the option for retired clergy to voluntarily indicate they would not attend the upcoming annual conference session so the number of laity elected to balance representation could be adjusted accordingly (result: election of fewer at-large delegates from districts). The issue is that the paragraph reads that the balancing of representation is related to membership. This petition is basing the balancing of representation on attendance.
- Recognized the retiring and incoming Judicial Council members
- Restored the 10 percent buffer to the number of members required to have a bishop. This means a jurisdiction can drop 10 percent below the required number before losing a bishop. The committee had struck the 10 percent buffer language. It was restored on the floor.
In closing, Swanson joked about his physical resemblance to Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, who he said he asked to assist him during the session.
"I wanted everybody to know there is a difference in Bishop Swanson and Bishop Palmer," Swanson said. "Now here's the difference. Whenever you run into us and you want to know if it's Swanson or Palmer, ask the person to sing. If they can sing, it's Palmer. If they cannot sing, it's Swanson."
See UMNS video of Swanson's presiding session.
In other actions during the May 3 session, General Conference decided that U.S. clergy will continue to participate in a retirement program that includes a monthly pension payment.
Delegates also rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to allow General Conference to name a committee to reallocate funds between sessions of the quadrennial gathering.
See UMNS "wrap" story: "Gay rights protest closes morning session."
See video of Holston delegation in prayer.
See today's photos of Holston people on Facebook.
Hear audio/podcast: "Eddie Fox: It's important that we conference together."
See past Holston stories:
"GC Journal," April 27
"GC Journal," April 30
"GC Journal," May 1
"GC Journal," May 2
For Holston's ongoing follow-up coverage:
For extensive coverage of General Conference 2012 with news, analysis, photos, videos, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and more, visit UMC.org.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call. firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.