Three legislative items passed the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church at their annual meeting in mid-June 2016 that together cast a vision for the future of United Methodism.
Affirmed Ordained Ministry for All Persons
At the start of the week, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry shared a statement that they had crafted together that was similar to the ones shared in recent months by New York, Baltimore-Washington, Pacific Northwest and Northern Illinois Conferences, namely to say that they would not consider orientation or sexual identity that exclude LGBTQ persons from ministry.
Here’s the statements in image form:
Then the Clergy Session eventually approved a similar statement…which I believe is unique as other Conferences passed this statement in their Boards of Ordained Ministries, not the full clergy session. It passed with over 80%.
In these ways, they allow all qualified candidates to serve in ordained ministry, including all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Joined the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Next, the Conference passed on a floor vote two petitions that supported the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and caused the Oregon-Idaho Conference to actually join the Coalition. Here’s the petitions (pages 3-6).
Here’s why this is important:
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is an important interfaith advocacy group for women’s health. This resolution would state that the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference supports RCRC and would become a member of RCRC.
For over 40 years RCRC has been a voice for reproductive choice and has been active in working with people- especially those at the margins- at the intersection of faith, policy, and reproductive life. Denominational support was removed in 2016 by General Conference. We in Oregon-Idaho stand with women and those persons who can become pregnant in recognizing that reproductive choices should happen between a person and their doctor. We want to clearly say that we disagree with removal of the denominational membership and offer our public support instead.
Since the General Conference denied to participate in reproductive health advocacy for women, I’m glad my annual conference has chosen to maintain the relationship, although at a lower level than before. This shows that what General Conference undoes, the Annual Conferences can lead on, albeit in a patchwork form.
Full disclosure: I was the spokesperson for this legislation, written by a fellow clergyperson in my conference.
A Moratorium and Guidelines for the Bishops’ Commission
Finally, the Conference passed on a floor vote a petition supporting the Bishops’ Commission studying human sexuality. Here’s the petition (pages 7-9). Here’s why this is important:
A Way Forward is the Bishops’ Special Commission to study and rewrite The United Methodist Church’s policies on human sexuality for consideration by a called General Conference or the 2020 General Conference. This resolution would state that the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference supports this process and gives our hopes for the Commission’s best process.
Institutions move slowly and have sometimes unhelpful timelines for action. It is important that the Council of Bishops hear the wishes of the people most affected by the harmful policies of the Book of Discipline and that the Special Commission implement timelines and considerations that meet the needs of the Annual Conferences and local churches to continue being in faithful, full ministry, with our vibrant and diverse communities. This is a painful process for us all and too often fear and hesitance intercede when we are called by the spirit to be bold and take action. Continuing to call for action and to hold the bishops and the commission accountable will mitigate the spiritually corrosive factors of bureaucratic inertia and institutional malaise.
Hopefully the Bishops will take these considerations into account as they form this Commission.
Full disclosure: I was the spokesperson for this legislation, which originated from the Love Your Neighbor Coalition.
Last week, I proposed two ways how Annual Conferences could help the denomination. It turns out that my own Annual Conference followed through on both recommendations and is one of the Conferences leading The UMC in showing what a progressive and inclusive Wesleyan perspective looks like.
May others soon follow and lead in their own ways as we discern what this interim period between death and new life looks like.