A Church Divided, GC2012 LGBT Debate [video]

A Church Divided” is a professional and well-made PBS video made by San Francisco’s KQED and their Division for Investigative Reporting. From their website:

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. 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.
  2. 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?'”
  3. Move to General Conference.
  4. Interview with Rev. Tom Lambrecht, Good News President and sometimes commenter here at HX.
  5. Interview with Oliveto’s work at GC
  6. Articulation of the African Delegates critical role to both sides.
  7. 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.
  8. 10:45 Flash Mob! You can’t stop the beat!
  9. 11:00 Reflections by Good News to the Church and Society discussion, interview with Lambrecht.
  10. 12:00 Reflection by Rev. Gregory Gross on what often happens to LGBT youth, including homelessness and HIV diagnoses.
  11. 13:00 Reflection by African Delegates on what constitutes a family
  12. 14:30 The Committee votes against LGBT inclusion. Will Green’s distinctive voice singing always gets me.
  13. 15:00 Discussions by RMN and GN about their strategies now that it is about to become a floor discussion.
  14. 17:45 Floor Debate and the vote to change the UMC doctrine on LGBT issues fails. The vote is wider than in the past.
  15. 21:00 Floor Protest and Communion that shuts down General Conference.
  16. 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.
  17. 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)
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    • says

      I don’t know. I don’t know him or have heard. I wonder if this is the first people have heard of it…though with a sign on the marquee, that’s probably unlikely.

      • says

        I’m sure in Tacoma it is well known … indeed I saw some press coverage that the church planned to do weddings as soon as the law passed. I just wonder if the bishop and cabinet have decided to take Bishop Talbert’s (spelling?) lead and ignore the Book of Discipline on this matter, since I can’t believe they don’t know about it.

        • says

          Well the Western Jurisdiction passed a resolution at Jurisdictional to act as if the Discipline passages referring to ordination and marriage did not exist. Until it is challenged in JC (no Bishop sent it there for declaratory judgment) then it is assumed to be the law of the land.

          Not saying it would stand, just giving context for why it might be that there’s been no public movement against the clergy person.

          • says

            Careful, John. I didn’t say it was more authoritative than General Conference. I did say it was the interpretation that the Bishops and conferences are operating under (just like any Bishop’s interpretation of law) until told otherwise.

  1. says

    Okay, I’ll watch the language there, but a bishop’s decision of law is automatically sent to the Judicial Council for review when a question of law is raised at Annual Conference (per the Constitution). If I read what you wrote correctly, no one is asking the Judicial Council for a decision. They are just waiting for someone else to make an issue of it.

  2. Tom Lambrecht says

    Thanks for the promotion, Jeremy! I am actually only the vice president of Good News. :-)

    I thought the video was somewhat balanced, in that both perspectives were represented in the video. In conversation with the makers of the video, they were trying to make it balanced.

  3. Creed Pogue says

    Good News had actually mentioned this documentary back in September.


    Even though Glide Memorial states that it has 12,000 members and an attendance of 3,000, because it has lower revenue and lower expenses than First Bakersfield, First Bakersfield actually pays more apportionments than Glide Memorial (2010 Conference Journal–2012 and 2011 don’t load on the website).

    The biases and skewed priorities of the General Commission for the General Conference was vividly illustrated when the sexuality petitions were put on the agenda at plenary even though they failed in a committee that was historically stacked in their favor. We probably could have accomplished more on restructuring and gave people a feeling that GC wasn’t a waste of millions if the sexuality petitions were left off the floor. It was obvious that they weren’t going to pass. But, the priority of an overly-empowered minority was to give free vent to their grievances. Now, we are headed to Portland in 2016 where 95% of the delegates will have to travel over 1,500 miles to attend and yet we are told that this will be the “greenest” General Conference ever!

    • Creed Pogue says

      Amory Peck’s statement that “The West doesn’t care” unfortunately seems to be the majority mindset. Membership is melting away. Their financial support of the connection is the weakest of any jurisdiction. I get the feeling that there is going to be a very hot time in Portland because many people are not going to accept a repeat of the same obstructionism that characterized Tampa. How small will the Western Jurisdiction delegation be in 2016?

      I guess the documentary was updated from the original in September. You have an active elder committing a chargeable offense on film. At least in Minnesota, it was a retired elder.

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