Two factions at different ends of the spectrum on The United Methodist Church’s stance on human sexuality issues introduced resolutions. And then they worked together to craft language calling for a middle ground that passed overwhelmingly during the South Central Jurisdictional Conference meeting Friday afternoon.
The separate resolutions called for "Unity Amidst Diversity" and "Peace, Patience and Prayer" in their titles.
The combined resolution thanked the Council of Bishops for its proposal at General Conference in May for a special commission to discuss the issues and for its colleagues to "unite across the spectrum of convictions on these matters to pray for the formation of that commission and its work.
"We want to rely on the Holy Spirit to speak to us on these matters and on all matters of holiness," the resolution reads.
The resolution asks the bishops to cultivate a spirit that treats all clergy and laity respectfully regardless of their views on human sexuality and to continue to live into the commitment made at the conference.
The Rev. Zach Anderson of the Great Plains Conference, chairman of the Committee on Petitions, said the original resolutions were not an attempt to sway the decisions of the delegates nor the Council of Bishops.
“I think both of the resolutions on human sexuality are hoping to give some grace and attention while we’re waiting on the bishops and General Conference to meet and gather,” said Anderson, a clergy delegate serving in Nebraska.
Both petitions, Anderson said, called for the delegates to be in prayer, look to the Holy Spirit and respect those with differing opinions.
“Each of them was from a different angle,” he said. “One was more about trying to uphold the whole Discipline at that time. The other one said, ‘We need more grace in how we enforce the rules,’ to allow people to continue to serve their communities as they see fit.”
The resolution that passed represents a compromise between the two, Anderson said.
“It’s recognizing that we all have different beliefs, but it’s very genuinely heartfelt pleas from both sides,” he said. “We have to find a way to live together before we know what General Conference is going to do.”
The General Conference in May voted to enact a plan by the Council of Bishops to form a commission to review all references in the Book of Discipline to human sexuality. The plan also allows for the bishops to call a special General Conference prior to the scheduled 2020 conference to deal with human sexuality issues.
Any action by the jurisdictional conference is affirmational only. Only the General Conference has the authority to make any changes to church polity.
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