Nashville, Tenn.: Meeting in Nashville today, the Connectional Table voted to submit a compromise legislative proposal to the 2016 General Conference that removes prohibitive language from The United Methodist Book of Discipline concerning homosexuality, while making only minor changes to the existing Social Principles.
The proposal would allow United Methodist clergy to perform ceremonies that celebrate same-sex unions in United Methodist churches if they wish; clergy who do not wish to perform such ceremonies would not be required to do so. The proposal also removes being a practicing homosexual or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies from the list of chargeable offenses for clergy. In addition, the proposal removes the language that says the church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers it incompatible with Christian teachings, while recognizing this has historically been the position of the church.
The Connectional Table voted 26-10 with one abstention to submit the proposal, which they described as a possible “third way” to help the church end its impasse on homosexuality. The proposal would end church trials over homosexuality, allow the exercise of conscience by United Methodist clergy, yet retain the authority of annual conferences to discern suitability for ordination.
“Part of what I observed throughout the process in Maputo and again today here in Nashville is what I would hope could happen in our congregations, in our living rooms, in our annual conferences and at General Conference – and that is a very thoughtful, respectful heartfelt discussion and earnest desire to discern God's will,” said Bishop Bruce R. Ough, chairperson of the Connectional Table.
The proposal was drafted by a legislative writing team appointed by the executive committee from among the Connectional Table’s membership, led by The Rev. Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai, a district superintendent in the West Michigan Conference.
In doing their work, the writing team said they grounded themselves with these three theological assertions:
The Connectional Table’s proposal is expected to be one of many petitions regarding human sexuality that will be considered at the 2016 General Conference.
“Our hope is that it will provide an alternative for the General Conference to consider that helps strengthen the unity of the church and allows us to move forward together as a denomination so that we can focus on our mission,” said Bishop Ough.
Last month, the Commission on the General Conference voted to support an alternative discernment process for dealing with legislative petitions that may benefit from discussion in small groups. Delegates to the 2016 General Conference would have to approve the process.
About the Connectional Table.
The Connectional Table oversees the coordination of mission, ministries and resources across the denomination. Created at the 2004 General Conference, the Connectional Table was formed to serve as both the visioning body of the church and the steward of resources to carry out the vision of the denomination worldwide.