The 30 persons arrested Thursday and escorted off the platform at
the United Methodist General Conference were released Friday morning after paying fines
and court costs totaling $160. The group pleaded no contest to the charges of interrupting
The Judicial Council has ruled that the churchs constitution does
not support creation of a lay assistant category of ministry under appointment of a
The United Methodist Church will not increase its number of annual
conferences in the United States by creating a specialized missionary area in the west. By
a vote of 615 to 312 the delegates rejected a proposed Evangelical Missionary Conference
in the Western Jurisdiction.
Members of boards of ordained ministry must participate in intensive
training to help develop multicultural sensitivity for more effective recruitment and
support of pastors.
The arrest of 30 people this afternoon - including
two United Methodist bishops - on charges of disrupting a lawful
meeting is believed to be the first time anyone has ever been removed
by police from a General Conference plenary hall.
The action came at the end of a tension-filled day
in which the churchs positions on homosexuality were reaffirmed by
roughly margins of 2 to 1. A veteran observer called it the most
emotional day he had ever seen at a General Conference.
Bishop Dan G. Solomon, Baton Rouge, La., who
presided over the morning and afternoon sessions, said an agreement
had been reached with protesters whereby they could stand quietly in
the arena or kneel in prayer. By mid-afternoon, this agreement was
coming unraveled and the arrests followed. Bishops taken into custody
on charges of disrupting a lawful meeting were C. Joseph Sprague,
Chicago, and Susan M. Morrison, Albany, N.Y.
During the more routine moments, the General
Conference delegates acted on a variety of matters. For example, they:
Called for an end to the conflicts in the Philippines,
Sierra Leone and the Congo.
Affirmed the churchs relationship with the National
Council of Churches.
a third special Sunday without offering for the church year,
"Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday," which will be observed
on the second Sunday in November.
Meanwhile, the United Methodist Judicial Council met
today and elected officers. The Rev. John G. Corry, Nashville, Tenn.,
was elected president of the churchs supreme court when the group
organized for the 2001-2004 quadrennium. The Rev. C. Rex Bevins of
Lincoln, Neb., was elected vice president, and Sally Curtis AsKew of
Bogart, Ga., was re-elected secretary. The nine-member Judicial
Council now includes its first member elected from outside the United
States, Rodolfo C. Beltran from the Philippines.
Thursday morning happenings
The top legislative body of the United Methodist
Church has retained its current stance that the practice of
homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and retained
its prohibition on the ordination or appointment of pastors who are
self-avowed practicing homosexuals. The vote on the incompatible
statement was 628 yes and 337 no. The vote barring homosexuals as
clergy was 650 to 317.
Several attempts to amend the statements failed. At
one point, a number of delegates and others supporting a change in
policy stood in the aisles of the Cleveland Convention Center in
protest of the actions. Homosexuality has been an issue in the church
for 30 years.
The mornings session opened with worship. The
Agape Childrens Handbell Choir from the Agape Methodist Church in
Parnu, Estonia provided music. Later, Bishop Joel N. Martinez of the
Nebraska Area preached the sermon.
United Methodists must cross boundaries, live in
bigger boxes and experience their own unique gifts without being
blinded to those of others, Martinez said. We are not whole without
the gifts of others, he said.
Wednesday afternoon happenings
General Conference delegates declined to reconsider an action of earlier
in the week concerning election of a member of the Judicial Council. The council ruled
that an election had been held when a vacancy did not exist. The decision means that the
Rev. John Corry keeps his seat for another four years.
A number of General Conference and Judicial Council actions today
related specifically to annual conferences:
- Annual conferences were denied the right to meet every second year
instead of annually.
- Affirming the Book of Discipline as the law of the United
Methodist Church, the Judicial Council ruled today that an annual conference may not
negate, ignore or violate its provisions even when such disagreements are based upon
- After extended debate, General Conference changed the basic formula by
which the number of delegates is determined in a particular annual conference. The new
plan puts greater emphasis on the number of lay members of the denomination, according to
proponents, but still retains the traditional United Methodist rule that half the total
number of delegates are to be clergy and half lay.
In a news conference today, three bishops expressed hope and optimism
for the denomination. I think we are focused on a point where our church is in
disagreement, but there are many more issues where we are in agreement than in
disagreement, said Bishop Woodie White, who leads the Indiana Area.
Wednesday Morning, May 10
update--More than 180 people, including United Methodist Bishop C.
Joseph Sprague, Chicago, were arrested Wednesday for engaging in civil
disobedience as a way of protesting United Methodist policies
regarding homosexuality. A
police official said they were charged with aggravated disorderly
conduct. The arrests followed a rally and march around the Cleveland
Convention Center. Groups of 13 to 25 people took turns blocking the
convention center driveway and were led away by police.
Booking on the charges was underway in mid afternoon.
Christians must transcend the
concern for the survival of the church and start to focus (their)
concern upon the kingdom of God and its centrality to church and
society the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev.George Carey, told the United
Conference Wednesday morning. Let
us start doing our evangelism together, he said.
Let us minister to young people together.
Let us share social concern together.
Let us do our thinking and theological exploration
together....This unity that we seek is not simply for the sake of
unity but in the service of the Gospel.
Two persons were honored Wednesday
by the Council of Bishops for their leadership in ecumenical
activities, especially the World Council of Churches---Janice Love,
Columbia, S.C., and the Rev. Kathryn Bannister, pastor of Rush County
Parish, Lacrosse, Kans., and a president of the World Council of
Support for missions projects
through the designated gift program known as the Advance exceeded $44
million last year, the General Conference was told Tuesday night.
The program is now in its 53rd year.
United Methodists were urged
Tuesday night to join with administrators of church related colleges
and universities in supporting programs intended to reduce drinking
and drugs on campuses.
A resolution approved Tuesday
called on the U.S. Congress to remove the exemption in federal law
that allows parents to withhold medical care to their children based
on religious beliefs. The petition says that many children have died or suffered
permanent injury because parents believe that the law allows denying
medical care for religious reasons.
Wednesday morning the conference
encouraged congregations and parents to monitor more carefully what
their children watch and listen to on television, the internet,
television and motion pictures. Individuals
were asked to express their opposition to such material by buying
brands other than those advertised.
Noon, May 9 General Conference acts on handguns, Chief
Delegates to General Conference called for a total ban on
ownership by the general public of handguns, assault weapons, automatic weapon conversion
kits and weapons that cannot be detected by traditionally used metal detection devices.
The assembly, which sets United Methodist policy, wants a ban in the United States and all
other countries where the church has a presence. The vote was 724-205 after about 30
minutes of debate.
The conference also approved engaging the ownership of the Cleveland
Indians baseball team in dialogue regarding the use of a caricature of an American Indian
known as Chief Wahoo as an identifying logo of the team. The caricature
frequently is regarded as demeaning by Native Americans.
Citing the rapid development of research dealing with human cloning and
the mixing of human stem cells with animals or human embryos, the General Conference today
asked the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to form a bio-ethics task force to
advise the church on relevant ethical issues.
Three of the churchs special programs were endorsed for reference
to the General Council on Finance and Administration the Native American Forum,
Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century and the Shared Mission
Focus on Young People.
Delegates also approved two new efforts, a $3.2 million Korean-American
ministries initiative and a $1.8 million Asian American Language Ministry Study.
Late Monday, delegates elected six members to the Judicial Council, the
churchs supreme court. The Rev. Larry Pickens, Chicago, and the Rev.
Keith Boyette, Fredericksburg, Va., were elected to eight-year terms, and the Rev. Jane
Tews of Phoenix to a four-year term. Lay members elected for eight-year terms were
Rodolfo Beltran, an attorney from the Philippines; Mary Daffin, an attorney from Houston;
and James Holsinger, chancellor of the Chandler Medical Center at the University of
Holdover members are Tom Matheny, Hammond, La., now critically ill and
in his sixth term as president; Sally Curtis AsKew, Bogart, Ga., council secretary; and
the Rev. C. Rex Bevins, Lincoln, Neb. Beltran is the first council member elected from
outside the United States. In debate Tuesday, the General Conference turned down a number
of proposals seeking to broaden representation on the council, but did set a limit on
terms that can be served.
This morning, delegates elected several people to the University Senate,
a peer review organization for United Methodist-related schools. The new members are:
Trudie Kibbe (Preciphs) Reed, president of Philander Smith College, Little Rock, Ark.;
Donald Maldonado Jr., president of Iliff School of Theology, Denver; the Rev. Maxie
Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky.; and Charlene R. Black,
vice president for academic affairs and dean at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro.
Todays sessions began with worship. Bishop Richard C. Looney of
the South Georgia Area preached.
If the church is careless with Gods resources, it not only robs
God and its neighbors, but also corrupts its very soul, Looney said. We
have no right to squander Gods gifts. We have no right to abuse Gods
9 a.m., May 8 Delegates act on items related to homosexuality,
Delegates attending the 2000 General Conference rejected a proposal
today that would have required all pastors to sign a statement professing that
homosexuality is not God's will.
By a vote of 705-210, delegates to the denomination's top legislative
meeting declined to add to the church's lawbook a stipulation that before pastors could be
assigned to any church they had to sign a statement: "I do not believe that
homosexuality is God's perfect will for any person. I will not practice it. I will not
promote it. I will not allow its promotion to be encouraged under my authority."
In other actions, the General Conference approved a new resolution on
clergy sexual ethics. This item, submitted by the churchwide Commission on the Status and
Role of Women, replaces a 1996 resolution with one that includes definitions, biblical
foundations and reference to the church constitution.
In an effort to elect five people to eight-year terms on the Judicial
Council, delegates first cast votes this morning. A slate of 20 laypeople for three slots
and 15 clergy members for two spots were nominated previously, but no candidate from
either field was elected on first ballot. The lay candidate with the most votes was 113
short of attaining election, and the clergyman with the most votes was 139 short.
Balloting will continue throughout the final week of the General Conference.
The delegates turned down a petition related to abortion that opponents
said would make a police force out of the churchs central finance agency in
monitoring statements by church agencies, clergy and laity on either side of the issue.
Also defeated was a petition intended to eliminate from the Book of
Discipline the so-called guaranteed appointment for clergy.
Carolyn Marshall of Veedersburg, Ind., was re-elected secretary of the
Reports also were heard on three churchwide initiatives: the Shared
Mission Focus on Young People, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st
Century and Communities of Shalom.
8:15 a.m., May 8 Bishop Arichea preaches on inclusiveness
Inclusiveness and diversity make the churchs message more
effective, a Filipino bishop told delegates attending the United Methodist General
Conference Monday. Because God accepts us, we should accept one another, said
Bishop Daniel Arichea Jr., Baguio City, Philippines. Paraphrasing a popular slogan that
said to leave the driving to Greyhound, the bishop said it is up to Christians to love
people and leave the judging to God.
8:15 a.m., May 6 Calendar items,
Korean-American ministries highlight agenda
Delegates opened Saturdays business agenda
with a prayer in which they remembered the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton,
Colo., and thousands of other places in the world where our children are being
In business, the delegates processed the first of
their calendar items. By the end of the conference May 12, the 992 delegates
will have voted on more than 2,000 legislative proposals as calendar items. These range
all the way from major policy decisions to minor changes in organizational titles or
programs. Proposals that carry the least potential for controversy are grouped in what is
known as a Consent Calendar. Those items have received a unanimous vote in the
legislative committee, either positive or negative, and they go to the plenary with a
unanimous recommendation for approval or rejection.
Stories of the many and varied missions activities of
the church were described in a report from the General Council on Ministries. Programs
cited ranged from a church in Columbus, Ohio, serving breakfast between 1 and 3 a.m. to
Ohio State University students, to the removal of land mines in Mozambique.
Delegates also heard a report on the growth of
ministry among Koreans living in the United States. The denomination has 500
Korean-American pastors and 360 Korean-American congregations. Ministry to Korean
immigrants began in 1903 in Hawaii.
2 p.m., May 5 - New Council of Bishops president discusses key issues
Bishop William B. Oden, the new president of the United Methodist
Council of Bishops, predicted that the widespread discussions on homosexuality could draw
the church closer together and will not be harmful. Oden, installed for a one-year term as
president earlier today, discussed homosexuality and other issues during a press
conference. He said the major issues facing United Methodism are the global nature of the
church, racism, poverty and theological education.
Earlier in the day, General Conference voted 861 to 67 in support of
removing the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol. The vote was in
response to a resolution brought by the South Carolina delegation. The states
delegation, annual conference and Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey support the removal.
In the spirit of Thursday nights service of repentance for racism,
the General Conference adopted by a near-unanimous vote a resolution extending greetings
to Pope John Paul II and recognizing the profound statements of sorrow and regret
that you have made in this year of Jubilee regarding certain past practices of the Roman
Catholic Church, Catholics and other Christians, including United Methodists.
We in turn ask forgiveness for our deeds of commission and omission.
Taking the first of what is expected to be many looks at the work of the
Connectional Process Team (CPT), General Conference delegates referred the entire report
to the standing legislative committee on General and Judicial Administration. After
extensive debate and parliamentary motions, more than 63 percent of the delegates voted to
refer the entire report to the legislative committee.
In accord with tradition, United Methodists of Northeast Ohio have
supplied an estimated 250,000 cookies for the pleasure of delegates, bishops, staff, press
and visitors within arms length of the goodies. Any left each day are given to
emergency feeding services in the Cleveland area.
8:15 a.m., May 5 - Delegates hear nominations; bishops pass gavel
Highlights of the morning included a sermon by Bishop Janice Riggle
Huie of Arkansas during the opening worship service and a report from United Methodist-
related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
Choirs from Bethune- Cookman College, Daytona Beach, FL, and Africa University sang.
Also during the morning, the gavel symbolizing the presidency of the
United Methodist Council of Bishops was passed from Bishop Robert C. Morgan of Louisville,
Ky., to Bishop William B. Oden of Dallas. Bishop Elias G. Galvan of Seattle was named
president-elect to take office a year from now.
Delegates made nominations from the floor for Judicial Council and
University Senate positions. They also rejected a motion to suspend the rules and allow
legislative committee work on membership issues to continue. Discussion about membership
issues has been affected by a Judicial Council ruling that the General Conference cannot
act upon petitions seeking to amend or re-adopt any paragraphs of the 1996 Book of
Discipline that have been declared unconstitutional. Some of those paragraphs deal
specifically with baptism and membership.
8:30 p.m., May 4 - United Methodists repent for
In a three-hour service that included the symbolic
wearing of sackcloth and ashes, United Methodists May 4 confessed to
the sin of racism within the denomination. The act of repentance,
together with a call for reconciliation, is an attempt to recapture
the spirit of Methodism lost when some African Americans in the 18th
and 19th centuries felt
compelled to leave the churchs predecessor
bodies and form their own congregations and denominations.
In a business session before the repentance
service, delegates narrowly approved a resolution to ask the United
Methodist Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on the covenant
relationship among the annual conferences, the General Conference and
the Book of Discipline. The request for a ruling also asks
whether there are circumstances in which an annual conference has the
right to negate or ignore the Book of Discipline when the
annual conference conscientiously disagrees with a particular
The Judicial Council, the churchs supreme
court, also has ruled this week that the General Conference cannot act
upon petitions seeking to amend or re-adopt any paragraphs of the 1996
Book of Discipline that have been declared unconstitutional.
4 p.m., May 4 Bishops speak
out on Vieques
A number of journalists covering
the United Methodist General Conference, along with some delegates and
other interested parties, attended a news conference on the issue of
the arrest early Thursday of peaceful demonstrators who were
protesting the U.S. Navys use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques
as a bombing range. Bishop Juan Vera Mendez of the Methodist Church of
Puerto Rico was one of those arrested.
The United Methodist Council of
Bishops, the denominations Board of Global Ministries and the Board
of Church and Society have spoken out against bombing on Vieques.
However, only the General Conference can speak for the entire church.
in the day, the church received praise from the founder of Habitat for
Humanity, Millard Fuller. Fuller told the 992 General Conference
delegates that the United Methodist Church had the highest level of
involvement in Habitat of any denomination.
A special offering for the
children of Africa received $16,568.3
8:15 a.m., May 4 Delegates
celebrate heritage, remember Cardinal OConnor
Delegates to the United Methodist
General Conference expressed sympathy in the death of Cardinal John
OConnor to family, associates and church.
Two decades of service by two
predecessor bodies of the United Methodist Church were celebrated in a
special ceremony. Both the former United Brethren in Christ and the
Evangelical Association count their beginnings from 1800. The two
united in 1946 to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church, and in
l968 joined with the Methodist Church in forming
the United Methodist Church.
It was called to the
conferences attention that several delegates from
Africa had been assigned to legislative committees where language
interpretation was not available. After a long discussion on
procedure, the conference called for all steps possible to be taken to
correct any inequities in interpretation in the 10 legislative
committees. Failing that, the delegates would be given the privilege
of being reassigned to committees where interpretation was available.
9 a.m., May 3-- Morning highlights include Laity
Address, CPT report
Delegates to the United Methodist General Conference
heard a call for closer partnership in ministry between clergy and lay members on May 3 in
Cleveland, as the assembly moved into the first full day of its 10-day quadrennial
Tradition creates separate tasks for clergy and lay
members instead of bringing them together as partners in making disciples, said Jim
Nibbelink of Milford, Ohio, in the Laity Address to the 992 delegates. Nibbelink, an
executive with Procter & Gamble, is lay leader of the West Ohio Annual Conference.
The time has long passed, if it was truly ever here, when one leader could
chart the course, make decisions, call the tune and carry the load, Nibbelink said.
Dictates from the pulpit or pew must pass away, and a renewed, cooperative spirit
must be encouraged to take root.
Delegates were invited Wednesday morning by a
churchwide study panel to take baby steps toward a transformational
direction for the United Methodist Church.
The usual procedures of the General Conference were
set aside to allow the panel, known as the Connectional Process Team (CPT), to make its
report and recommendations. The CPT was created by the 1996 General Conference and is led
by Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher of Springfield, Ill., chairwoman.
Delegates then met in smaller groups to discuss the
material. Written summaries of those discussions will come before the delegates Thursday
night. Appropriate legislative committees then will discuss the proposals further and
bring recommendations to a conference plenary session next week.
In the teams report, sent to delegates in
advance of the conference, five transformational directions and strategies for
implementation were identified.
Recommendations call for creating covenant
councils at all levels of the church. The current General Council on Ministries
would be replaced with a Covenant Council that would continue to direct the
For the first time, a price tag of $500,000 in new
money was put on the cost of a proposed Global Conference that would hold its first
meeting in 2008. The Global Conference would replace the General Conference under the CPT
In a poignant moment, Anne Marshall, an
executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious
Concerns, told of the churchs support for her and her family in the wake of her
husbands death in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal office
building in Oklahoma City. Its
been a difficult journey, she said, but because of my church community I have
not walked alone.
Delegates were scheduled to spend Wednesday afternoon
and evening in legislative committee meetings.
9 p.m., May 2 Bishops issue
call to discipleship
One of the traditional opening
events of the quadrennial General Conference received a new look this
year, when Bishop Emerito P. Nacpil of the Philippines stepped to the
podium in the evening to deliver the Episcopal Address on behalf of the
churchs Council of Bishops. Nacpil
was the first bishop from outside the United States to present the
Your bishops believe that
the making of people as disciples of the crucified and risen Lord, and
forming them into a community of discipleship, is the most radically
significant event that can happen to humanity and to the world,
The church must continue working
for a more righteous global social order, even if we suffer for it in
the struggle, the bishop said.
Slavery and apartheid have
been outlawed, but racism and ethnic cleansing are still with us and
we must rid the world of these demons.
Colonialism and totalitarianism are no longer politically viable
options for us, but we still use power to dominate, violate and oppress,
instead of to liberate, to enable and to let be.
On Wednesday, Jim Nibbelink of
Cincinnati will deliver the Laity Address. Nibbelink is lay leader of
the West Ohio Annual Conference and a member of Armstrong Chapel United
tradition of the Laity Address began in l980. A competition has been
held every four years since then for a layperson to make the speech.
1:30 p.m., May 2 -- General Conference opens with
In a colorful, festive ceremony with international
accents, the United Methodist Church opened its first General Conference of the new
millennium on May 2 in Cleveland.
Robes of blue, red, gold, black, white and purple
added to the splendor of the opening procession, complete with liturgical dancers, banners
and African drums. An estimated 3,000 people in the Cleveland Convention Center expressed
their enthusiasm with prolonged applause.
The banners and dancers shared the procession with
about 100 of the churchs bishops from the United States, Africa, Europe and the
Philippines. The opening ceremonies began
with the singing of the traditional Wesley hymn And Are We Yet Alive? The Scripture was read in four languages.
The opening service carried out the General
Conferences theme of We who are many are one body.
After the sermon by Bishop Robert C. Morgan, of the
churchs Louisville (Ky.) Area, the bishops, 992 delegates and visitors received Holy
Communion at 100 stations positioned around the vast convention center.
When the worship was over, the delegates took a brief
break before beginning the business that will occupy them for the next 10 days. In another
tradition of General Conference, the delegates found homemade cookies awaiting them
outside the main arena.
After taking care of legislative formalities,
delegates gathered in 10 legislative committees. For the remainder of the week, the
committees will work their way through almost 2,000 petitions filed by more than 12,000
groups and individuals. Subject matter of the
petitions ranges from the routine to the highly controversial.
The Faith and Order Committee will have the most
petitions to consider 348. The committee actions will be brought to plenary
sessions, which are expected to occupy most of next week.
Officers for the legislative committees were elected
late Tuesday and then attended special training sessions.
General Conference, the lawmaking body of the United
Methodist Church, meets every four years. Its current session will end on May 12.
7 p.m., May 1-- Bishops rock
at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rain as a song title appears
several hundred times in the computer log at the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame and Museum in Cleveland, but downpours April 30 on the shores of
Lake Erie didnt stop an estimated 1,500 United Methodists from a
festive opening of their international legislative assembly.
reception for bishops and spouses always precedes the opening of
General Conference, the top lawmaking body of the United Methodist
Church. The conference is being held May 2-12 at the Cleveland
Highlighting the normally staid
reception was a bishops band comprising five episcopal leaders
and one professional musician. The combo set the corridors to rocking
with 30 minutes of jazz, Dixieland and other fast-moving numbers that
had the crowd calling for more.
we heard the reception was to be held in the Rock and Roll museum, a
little live music seemed appropriate, said Bishop Peter D. Weaver
Weaver played trombone,
accompanied by bishops Susan W. Hassinger, Boston, on flute;
John L. Hopkins, Minneapolis, bass guitar; Sharon Zimmerman
Rader, Sun Prairie, Wis., keyboard; and Edward W. Paup, Portland,
Ore., decked out in purple lei and dark shades, drums.
Dubbed the Purple People
Leaders, the band was anchored on trumpet by Jim Wonnacott, a
professional musician and United Methodist layman from Columbia
Other live groups from the
Cleveland area included a praise band, a bell choir, a praise chorus
and a violinist.
-- Robert Lear