By Kim Woods
I had to take at least 24 hours to process what has happened from General Conference, as I encouraged others to do as well.
Yesterday was a monumentally difficult day for the United Methodist Church and I wish I could say it only gets easier from here.
At the plenary session, the One Church Plan was presented as a minority report. This was not a simple or quick process by any means. The words spoken from the stage and on the floor by opponents and supporters of the motion were empowering in some cases and could be seen as belittling in others. We still had no decision before breaking for lunch but swiftly following lunch, the vote took place.
The One Church Plan was defeated by 75 votes.
Then conversation around the Traditional Plan began. Heated dialogue, constant conversation amidst some confusion, and passionate pleas rose up from the floor, at times echoed by those watching. Vote upon vote was taken on a number of amendments, related motions, and general questions which led to more speeches and convictions to be shared.
Ultimately, the final vote had to be taken.
Traditional Plan passed, 438 to 384.
There was no cheering. No clapping. Friends told me after that they thought their feed might have stopped running as it seemed there was no immediate reaction.
Personally, I think we were in shock. I know I was.
The plan had been deemed largely unconstitutional, yet it passed anyway.
Prayer and forms of organized protest of the vote began and a small break was taken. There was still business to be done, amidst cries of “no” and singing from the observers and some still within the bar.
We passed a minority report for a Disaffiliation plan with some discussion, most still revolving around hurt and concerns related to the passing of the Traditional plan. Then we bundled and voted down our remaining legislation. We had a hard stop time of 6:30 p.m. and a brief word of prayer is all that consisted of our evening worship.
Staff literally began to tear the arena down around us, even going as far as to briefly shutting off the lights and leaving us in the dark.
The irony of this is not lost on me.
I sit here in mourning and confusion for my church. I don’t know what is happening in our future. The plan we passed still awaits a declaratory decision from the Judicial council. Many reconciling and LGBTQ+ persons and churches have shared that they may be leaving or at least continuing to work in ways that would go against the plan which was passed.
We have to move forward, but many of us simply don’t know how.
Last night, those of us from the floor had to be ushered through back hallways because a peaceful sit-in and demonstration had taken place in the entrance to the Dome. Police were present, as was security from the facility. It was an organized chaos, of sorts, and I walked past many crying friends and media outlets as I returned to my hotel with my spouse.
Friends, I can’t say what this means for our church as a whole. Everything may shift again at the next conference, things could revert back to how they were if the Traditional plan is as broken as the lack of constitutionality makes it seem, or people may leave and our church will fracture, if not lead to a dreaded schism.
In many ways, we are essentially where we were a week ago. The difference is we have a lot more open wounds that need to be healed on all sides of this conversation.
I plan to remain connected to and in conversation with the church that I hold dear, if the church will still have me. I plan to run for 2020 as a delegate to see if I can still have a voice and a seat at our table. I plan to check-in on all others in the LGBTQ+ community that I know and who have reached out to me to let them know that they are loved even still.
I plan to move forward and continue in my ministry.
How about you, church?
(Photo credit: Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.)