Date Released: 2008
Page Count: 268
Isbn10 Code: 0415962498
Isbn13 Code: 9780203894637
About the Author Amanda Udis-Kessler received her PhD in Sociology from Boston College and is the Director of Institutional Research and Planning at The Colorado College. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. May 11, 2000: It's the second-to-last day of the United Methodist Church's ("UMC") 2000 denominational meeting, the General Conference. Delegates to this gathering have just voted to retain language characterizing homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching" in the Book of Discipline, the denomination's compilation of policies and doctrines. I watch, heartbroken, along with dozens of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered ("LGBT") United Methodists ("UMs") and their supporters as the delegates prepare to vote on several other measures that restrict LGBT UMs in the life of the church. Suddenly, the work of General Conference is shut down as a multitude of LGBT UMs and their allies enter the delegate area to protest the "incompatibility" vote. They wear clergy stoles provided by pastors who had to give up their ministries in order to live openly as lesbian, gay or bisexual. The protesters are also clad in buttons, stickers, and other paraphernalia traditionally found at a Gay Pride festival, and many wear crosses with rainbows painted on them, signaling their identity as LGBT Christians. This is their second day of protest; almost 200 of them were arrested the day before, along with a UMC bishop. Before the end of the day, the protesters will have been removed and 27 of them (including two UMC bishops) arrested, and the denomination will have voted to maintain its stance on homosexuality by a two-to-one margin. In addition to the incompatibility language, the United Methodist Church will have once again prohibited lesbians and gay men who will not commit to celibacy from being pastors. UMC pastors will have once again been forbidden to perform same sex commitment ceremonies ("holy unions"), and UMC churches will have been forbidden to host them. The denomination will have once again been forbidden to fund any program or organization "supporting" homosexuality. The overall outcome will be considered a victory for the conservative and Evangelical elements of the UMC, and interpreted as continued inequality within the church among the "inclusionists." General Conference 2000, particularly the restrictive votes and the inclusionist protest, is a good place to begin the story of the UMC LGBT inclusion struggle because this moment in UM time captures the nature of the conflict exceptionally well. The year 2000 was the culmination of a 28-year period during which the inclusionists were consistently outvoted on the "incompatibility language" (which was first added in 1972) and the homosexuality-related prohibitions (the first of which was added in 1976). The two-to-one margin in 2000 could mean that most UMs did not approve of homosexuality, that Evangelical groups were more successful in getting delegates elected, or that other factors were in play. One might wonder, though, why a denomination generally committed to social justice appeared not to sustain that commitment when it came to LGBT people in their own church. Inclusionists, in turn, chose to protest because they understood protests as a natural and appropriate response to inequality. Indeed, inclusionists had protested to some degree at every General Conference since at least 1988, though 2000 marked the first time that protesters were arrested and removed from the plenary floor. However, as inclusionists both told me and demonstrated by their actions, their day-to-day lives as UMs were not focused on protest and politics, but rather on mundane church activities and on their walk with Christ. One might wonder, then, why inclusionists perceived General Conference as in need of a protest that would shut it down, albeit temporarily; one might also wonder about the effects of their protest on the rest of the church. The logic behind the votes and the protest, their relation to each other, and their impact on those invested in the struggle (Evangelicals, inclusionists, the "Methodist middle") are the subject of this book.
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