Meyer, who had only been with her small Edgerton, Kansas, congregation for six months, timed her announcement to help kick-off the
Reconciling Ministries Network "It's Time" Campaign
. The initiative was geared to sway General Conference delegates to liberalize the church's sexual ethics and its teachings on marriage. Meredith's wedding, actually a political stunt, since he and his partner were officially married in December 2015, was timed to rally LGBTQ+ advocates on their way to General Conference.
Central Conferences and U.S. Traditionalists Stand Together
Evident to everyone at General Conference 2016 was the ability of traditionalist delegates from Africa, Europe, the Philippines and the U.S. to thwart much of the progressive agenda championed by U.S. liberals.
Some progressive commentators charged U.S. conservatives with
instructing Central conference delegates how to vote
they "hijacked" GC 2016
. Although progressives work hand-in-glove with their institutionalist allies at the church's general boards, agencies, and on the Connectional Table and Council of Bishops, it's somehow wrong for traditionalists to work together. Progressives still fail to understand how insulting and patronizing it is to Central Conference delegates when people insinuate they can be told how to vote.
Commission on A Way Forward
When it became apparent at General Conference that any attempts to liberalize the church's teachings on marriage and ordination, including the Connectional Table's misguided "A Third Way" plan, had no chance of passing, a compromise - of sorts - was reached. Conservatives agreed to spare progressives the embarrassment of seeing cherished legislation soundly defeated by tabling all petitions on the church's sexual ethics. In exchange, delegates agreed the
' teachings would remain in force, and the
Council of Bishops would appoint a commission
to bring a definitive resolution to the church's decades long debate to an unprecedented called General Conference in 2018 or 2019.
Incoming Council of Bishops' president Bruce Ough acknowledged the council is hopelessly divided. The very idea of a commission was the bishops' way of acknowledging they needed an
body to resolve the crisis. Unfortunately, in predictable fashion, and even as the threat to the church's governance escalated,
it took the COB nearly five months just to appoint the commission members
. Its lethargy pushed the called General Conference back to 2019, and even that is only a possibility.
Episcopal Election of the Rev. Karen Oliveto
Despite the compromise reached at General Conference, delegates at the Western Jurisdictional Conference ultimately decided to add fuel to the fire of ecclesial defiance. After 16 ballots, they decided to reject perfectly capable episcopal candidates with all the requisite progressive
the jurisdiction typically requires, and instead
elect a lesbian clergywoman
they all knew was married to a United Methodist deaconess.
The UM Church now has a bishop of the whole church, leading the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, who is willfully in violation of the church's teachings on marriage, and who eagerly confessed to the
New York Times that she has presided at over 50 same sex weddings during her clergy career.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association
It's chairman, the Rev. Jeff Greenway said, "I am convinced God is doing a new thing among those of us who claim the historic, orthodox, evangelical, Wesleyan expression of our faith. I believe we are planting seeds today that - when full grown - will bear the fruit of a vital Wesleyan witness and a dynamic Spirit-filled Methodism across the globe."
It was clearly one of the most momentous years in the church's history, and sets the stage for disruptive change to come.
Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergy person and an analyst for Good News.
Living Out of Defiance
By Tom Lambrecht
About a month ago, the New York Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) posted an
reiterating its intention to maintain a policy of accepting self-avowed practicing homosexuals as candidates for ministry. The letter was responding to the October Judicial Council decision to require Bishop Jane Middleton to rule on whether the BOOM had correctly followed the requirements of the Book of Discipline when it recommended candidates for ordained ministry who were self-avowed practicing homosexuals. The bishop still has to rule and the Judicial Council will review that ruling at its April 2017 meeting. [