Saturday, April 28, 2012

GC 12 day five: reflections on the struggle for justice

Today I was reminded that the work of justice in the church and the world is indeed a struggle. After four days of extraordinary hope, today was a disappointing one for a two particular reasons. First, I had the experience of witnessing the Faith & Order subcommittee vote to approve stronger language restricting ordination to individuals whose sexuality is expressed only within the boundaries of “marriage between one man and one woman.” Of course, this language would restrict non-celibate LGBTQ individuals from seeking ordination; however, it would also restrict all candidates for ministry—gay, straight, and everything in between—who are (and possibly even who have been) sexually active outside the context of marriage. I wholeheartedly believe that we must hold our clergy to high standards of integrity, but the addition of this particular language would be an unfortunate—not to mention unenforceable—addition to our Book of Discipline. As this comes before the plenary, it will be one fascinating piece of legislation to watch!

Next, tonight the General Administration committee (in which I have been serving as a legislative coordinator for the Common Witness Coalition) completed its four days of work on the denominational restructuring proposals by sending exactly no restructuring legislation to the plenary floor. Today was a long day in subcommittee—8am until 9:30pm, to be exact—and the GA committee worked an extra (and extremely chaotic) half hour with the permission of the General Secretary of the General Conference. The rules of General Conference state that any legislation which has not been voted on by 9:30pm on the last day of committee is considered unfinished, but in this situation (just restructuring the entire church, you know…no big deal), the committee was given permission to take one final vote. However, at the end of the night—after watching legislative and political mass chaos erupt—all three restructuring proposals were voted down by the committee. Two things about this situation were especially disappointing to me—first, young adult and Central Conference delegates had worked all day in subcommittee on amendments to Plan B, and this work was dismissed by the committee as a whole. These delegates— both young and global voices—represent the vitality to which the Call to Action is supposedly calling us. But at the end of the day, the voices of vitality and diversity did not have the final (or any) say in the restructuring of our great church—the voices of power did. Finally, this experience called into question the value of parliamentary procedure in the life of the church, something for which I am typically a strong advocate. While I have always appreciated parliamentary procedure as a structure that provides both equality and efficiency, in General Administration tonight that was not the case; instead, it functioned as a structure through which those in power stalled the process, silenced the body, and stayed in power.

After this long day, General Conference rolls on. I am humbled by this opportunity to better understand this church I love—this beautiful and broken people of God. But most of all, I am humbled by this opportunity to enter into the struggle for justice and for the inclusion of all voices—not only the voices of the powerful—in The United Methodist Church.

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