Is homosexuality compatible with Christianity? This question is debated fiercely in A Church Divided, a television documentary narrated by Peter Coyote and hosted by Scott Shafer. It follows California delegates to the United Methodist Church’s global convention in Tampa, Florida. There, United Methodists from around the world gather to vote on the future of their church and its official policy on gays and lesbians.
Progressive Methodists want to amend church doctrine declaring homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, but conservative Methodists want to retain the church’s traditional stance. Other mainline Protestant churches, including the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, split over this divisive question. The question now is will it divide the Methodist Church as well?
This was primarily a look at SF local clergyperson Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, senior pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco (wikipedia), which is a rare megachurch of 12,000 members that is also hugely progressive.
Embedding is disabled so you have to watch the video here.
Here’s the timeline of scenes:
- 1:00 The film starts with a comparison of the worship styles of Glide Memorial and First UMC of Bakersfield, a contrast of unwieldy jazzy worship with traditional worship, a contrast between a Reconciling Church and a Good News church.
- Randy Miller talks about his work as a Professor at PSR: “How is it that the Jesus Movement became transformed into ‘The Church as Sex Police?’”
- Move to General Conference.
- Interview with Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Good News President and sometimes commenter here at HX.
- Interview with Oliveto’s work at GC
- Articulation of the African Delegates critical role to both sides.
- 8:00 Process of how a bill becomes church law, including an example of debate during the Church and Society sub-committee on human sexuality.
- 10:45 Flash Mob! You can’t stop the beat!
- 11:00 Reflections by Good News to the Church and Society discussion, interview with Lambrecht.
- 12:00 Reflection by Rev. Gregory Gross on what often happens to LGBT youth, including homelessness and HIV diagnoses.
- 13:00 Reflection by African Delegates on what constitutes a family
- 14:30 The Committee votes against LGBT inclusion. Will Green’s distinctive voice singing always gets me.
- 15:00 Discussions by RMN and GN about their strategies now that it is about to become a floor discussion.
- 17:45 Floor Debate and the vote to change the UMC doctrine on LGBT issues fails. The vote is wider than in the past.
- 21:00 Floor Protest and Communion that shuts down General Conference.
- 22:00 Response by Bishop Melvin Talbert affirming clergy to buck church doctrine and a scene of a pastor performing a same-sex union. Further discussion of “Biblical Obedience” movement. Ends with the wedding clip.
- 25:40 Recap from the videographer and an articulation of what is happening in culture after GC2012.
General Conference 2012 was my third General Conference to attend and work in an advocacy role, so it was evocative to walk through it again (I was working in General Administration on the PlanUMC conversation, so I wasn’t in the room for these LGBT discussions as they happened). But I saw lots of my friends on the tape–some of whom I only see in real life every two years–and some scenes made my heart ache.
Thoughts? Reflections? What does the video mean to you? Do you feel the same about the UMC after watching it or different?(image: screengrab from “A Church Divided” video)