Protestors chanted and sang outside The Dome at America’s Center as United Methodists forged their way forward on Day 3 of the Special-Called General Conference attempting to bring clarity to the Church’s longtime debate over homosexuality.
After morning worship, Gary Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, clarified that 31 of the 864 delegates were not granted visas, preventing them from being in attendance.
Chairman Joseph Harris, a delegate from Oklahoma, gently reminded speakers to address the motion at hand as the day kicked off with discussion regarding the Traditional Plan, which would strengthen restrictions against officiating same-gender unions and being “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.
Early in the legislative debate, General Conference delegates defeated an effort to postpone discussion of the Traditional Plan by 488 to 334.
Two Indiana delegates joined the Traditional Plan conversation by offering amendments to the plan. John Lomperis called for loving accountability “for the sake of Scriptural holiness,” he said. “It is the most Wesleyan thing we can do. This amendment is about helping ensure that if we are going to adopt the Traditional Plan, do we want to ensure that we are doing accountability in a legal, fair, constitutional way, treating everyone with due process as we would want to be treated.”
Indiana delegate Beth Ann Cook supported development of gracious exit plans. “People on all sides of this debate are seeking to love one another and to serve Jesus. We are not debating if we will love; we all agree that we should do that. The question is how.”
In the end, an amended Traditional Plan passed (56%) by the legislative committee, sending it to the plenary session tomorrow.
Delegates also approved two plans that allow churches, with certain limitations, to leave the denomination with their property. This may also face a vote in the plenary session tomorrow.
Remarkably, an amendment to Petition 90004 regarding the One Church Plan TIED with 409 votes for and against, prompting a resounding “Ooooooo…..” from the crowd.
As the One Church Plan debate continued, Indiana delegate John Lomperis spoke against a point of order that the Central Conferences, (church regions in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines) will not be affected by the One Church Plan. “No Central Conference has the right to have its own social principles,” he said. “If we adopt the One Church Plan, we change the definition of marriage for all.”
Delegates voted against the bishop’s recommended One Church Plan with a vote of 436 to 386. It could still make a resurgence tomorrow, but it would do so as a minority report.
All remaining petitions were voted to be rejected with the exception of the Simple Plan, which eliminates restrictions related to homosexuality.
Jeffrey Warren, a college student and delegate from New York, offered a rousing speech in favor of the motion to save to Simple Plan, which resulted in a standing ovation and spontaneous eruption of “Jesus Loves Me” from the crowd.
As the Simple Plan discussion ensued, Indiana delegate Russ Abel took to the mic and stated his intention to stand in support of Jeffrey Warren’s impassioned oration. In response, several members of the Indiana delegation, along with hundreds of others throughout the legislative floor stood in solidarity for the remainder of the approximately 45-minute session.
Ultimately, the delegation voted to not support the Simple Plan with a vote of 323 to 494.
“Once again we have shown to the world that we have a United Methodist Church divided over human sexuality,” said Bishop Trimble. “On Tuesday, the Special General Conference will debate and decide what language remains in the Book of Discipline. I firmly believe no prayer is ever wasted and no commitment by a majority or minority to love and respect others is ignored by God or the annals of history.”
The Legislative Committee’s plenary session is slated to start on Tuesday morning.