By Jessica Brodie
PORTLAND, Ore.—May 18 began with worship featuring Bishop James Swanson Sr., Mississippi Episcopal Area, who preached on resisting the chaos of evil, which “loves to party” and always seeks to draw others in.
Then, in a triumph over the evil of malaria, General Conference launched into a full-scale celebration of The United Methodist Church’s strides toward eradicating the mosquito-borne disease.
A 12-minute celebration presented by United Methodist Communications and the General Board of Global Ministries included a highlights video of the Imagine No Malaria campaign and debuted “Able,” performed by American Idol contestant Jeremy Rosado against a backdrop of praise-filled singers and dancers.
Prior to the celebration, General Conference lifted in prayer Bishop David Yemba, Central Congo Episcopal Area, who had to be rushed to the hospital; he has been diagnosed with malaria.
Delegates then spent the morning hearing, debating, amending and then voting to approve a “way forward” plan from the Council of Bishops that has General Conference defer all petitions on human sexuality (a total of 56) and refer the entire subject to a special commission, named by the COB, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in the UMC Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.
Much of the debate, both on the floor and on social media was rife with heated exchange and accusation, along with impassioned cries for the church to embrace “the middle.”
Delegates spent the late afternoon on other matters, including celebrating new relationships with the Moravian Church and the Uniting Church in Sweden; honoring the work of the Global AIDS Fund; and lifting up the 30th anniversary of the Disciple Bible study.
Delegates brought to the floor a proposal to make the United States UMC a central conference. The petition on this had been defeated in committee. A motion was defeated to defer this decision to the new COB study commission.
The day closed with a lengthy presentation on the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre from a historian and descendants of the survivors of the attack. A Methodist Episcopal Church pastor, Col. John Chivington, led a surprise attack on a Cheyenne and Arapaho camp. The slaughter took the lives of hundreds of Native Americans, including women and children. General Conference 1996 apologized for the Methodist involvement in the massacre, but erred in some historical details. General Conference 2012 held an “Act of Repentance” worship to help establish healing relationships. Historian Gary L. Roberts has issued a lengthy report, “Remembering The Sand Creek Massacre: A Historical Review of Methodist Involvement, Influence, and Response,” now available as a book by Abingdon Press.
Some information courtesy of UMNS. Check back Thursday night for the next General Conference wrap-up.