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May 11, 2000 GC-059

Comments in ‘DCA’ underscore differences over homosexuality

CLEVELAND (UMNS) -- An exchange in the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA), the official publication of the United Methodist General Conference, illustrates the tensions between delegates who support and oppose changes in the church’s stance on issues related to homosexuality.

In the May 9 edition, DCA writer Brad Motta quoted from an article in a Transforming Congregations newsletter, which asked: "Help me understand! Why would people remain connected to a group who doesn’t affirm them or approve their behavior?"

Transforming Congregations is a movement that believes homosexual orientation can be changed through Christian faith. The article suggested that those who don’t agree with the United Methodist proscriptions against homosexual practice might be happier in other denominations that "bless and approve homosexuality."

In the next DCA issue, 14 members and friends of the church’s Northern Illinois delegation were given space to respond. Their printed comments were directed to Jim Gentile, a leader in the Transforming Congregations movement.

"Jim, we’re not looking to leave the home and family we love, even as some do and say the most hurtful things," the one-page letter says. "But that’s what love does. ... Love never gives up. Love never ends. Love never turns away. Love never fails.

"If you want a church that is literalist in its interpretation of Scripture and rigidly doctrinal and legalistic about people’s lives, Jim, the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptists and others open wide their doors to your narrow views and limited love and measured grace."

In closing, the writers note that the church would be less without those in the Transforming movement. "God’s grace is available here for you, too. We aren’t giving up on you, Jim. If you give up on us, we’ll understand and forgive you. You see, in our family, there will always be room for you at the table."

 

It was in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference that a church trial was held March 25-26, 1999, resulting in a one-year suspension of clergy member Gregory Dell who had performed a same-sex union ceremony at Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago on Sept. 19, 1998.

The denomination’s Social Principles include a sentence that says, "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." Dell was elected by the Northern Illinois Conference as a delegate to the General Conference meeting in Cleveland May 2-12 but was not allowed to be seated with his colleagues because of his suspension.

Homosexuality-related issues are being debated this week as the May 2-12 General Conference draws to a close. The conference, which meets every four years, is the top lawmaking body of the United Methodist Church.

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-- Tom McAnally

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