By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—In just more than an hour on Day 4 of Annual Conference, the body debated, amended and passed three of its four resolutions and referred the fourth to the General Conference Delegation for 2019.
Annual Conference amended and passed the Resolution in Support of Just and Inclusive Policy for Lay Volunteers and Lay Staff in Local Church Ministry and amended and passed the Resolution to Ensure Every Child in State Care Receives Best Possible Care, as well as passed the Resolution Designating Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, a United Methodist Historic Site.
Annual Conference referred to the delegation the Resolution Affirming Current Language in Book of Discipline Regarding Human Sexuality.
Conference Committee on Resolutions and Appeals Chair the Rev. Steve Simoneaux applauded the body for a “good job” on its speed in tackling the resolutions this year.
Last year, Simoneaux said, it took three and a half hours to handle the resolutions, but even with debate, this year took far less time.
“You cut your time by over 60 percent—done in one hour and five minutes,” Simoneaux said to laughter and applause.
Two other resolutions listed in the Registration Packet were not taken up for vote: Resolution for Gracious Accommodation South Carolina Annual Conference and Resolution to Support Equal Rights for Israelis and Palestinians Living in What We Call the Holy Land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Simoneaux explained the conference did not take up the gracious accommodation resolution because “it is out of order because it violates the trust clause,” and the equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians resolution was also out of order because the author of the resolution, Judith Polson, is not an elected lay delegate.
Resolution in Support of Just and Inclusive Policy for Lay Volunteers and Lay Staff in Local Church Ministry
After much debate and a hands vote close enough to call for a standing vote, the body passed an amended version of this resolution submitted by a variety of United Methodist clergy and laity from churches across South Carolina.
The resolution notes that South Carolina UMCs thrive on qualified laity called to serve the church in volunteer and paid positions, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, “Yet, qualified lay volunteers and employees have been denied or dismissed from their called positions based solely on their sexual orientation,” the resolution alleges. It further notes some UMCs practice a policy of inquiring about sexual orientation during the interview process and denying employment of called and qualified laity to non-appointed staff positions based on their sexual orientation.
The Committee on Resolutions recommended the body not adopt the original version resolution because, as Simoneaux said, while the committee fully supports fair hiring practices, “It could be a liability for the conference to take on a dictating policy.”
After some discussion on the floor, the Rev. Smoke Kanipe, Shandon UMC, Columbia, offered an amendment to change language in the resolution to make it less of a policy directive and more a suggestion. The amendment, which was approved by the body, changed wording that the Annual Conference “vow and formally commit” to inclusive hiring practices. Now, it reads that the Annual Conference will “encourage all United Methodist congregations in South Carolina to follow” employment and volunteer practices that are aligned with our Social Principles.
The amended resolution brought two speeches for and two speeches against the resolution before the vote was called.
The Rev. Paul Wood, one of the resolution signers, said he appreciated the amendment, as the petition was meant to be aspirational.
“Some among us, I’m sorry to say, perceive gay people to be predators, but I don’t think that’s a fair assessment at all,” Wood said, “They’re not trying to convert anybody to be homosexual, and I hope we can quit buying into idea that homosexual people are predators … and come around and be more accepting of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
The Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, pastor of the new church start Two Rivers, also spoke in favor of the amended resolution.
Hudson-Jacoby said one of the great gifts of having a new congregation is hiring skilled and talented staff with incredible gifts to expand their ministry.
When her team began its hiring process, “Never in that time did we ask about someone’s sexual orientation,” Hudson-Jacoby said. “And yes, sir, we have queer people on our staff, and we view it as a great strength to share the love of God in incredible ways.”
Dennis Gordon of St. Mark’s UMC, Sumter, spoke against the resolution, noting the church should be different from the rest of the world.
“As Christians, our whole church should be an expression of our faith, including the hiring, because people who are hired—whether secretary or custodian or clergy or whatever—are expected to be examples of Christianity,” Gordon said. “We are putting people in a position to expose or infiltrate or influence other people. We have a right as a church to use our standards or moral conduct in hiring people.”
The Rev. Webb Belangia also spoke against the resolution.
“Why we can’t grasp ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’? … We are supposed to be in the world, not of the world,” Belangia said. “If this passes, you need to know whatever church I’m pastoring, we’re not going to adhere to this.”
The final vote was 754 supporting the resolution and 378 against.
Resolution to Ensure Every Child in State Care Receives Best Possible Care
With no debate and a small amendment from its author, Annual Conference passed an amended version of this resolution submitted by the president and trustees of Epworth Children’s Home. The Committee on Resolutions recommended its adoption.
The resolution calls for the South Carolina Annual Conference to request that Epworth, Thornwell Children’s Home and Connie Maxwell Children’s Home receive exemptions from the Michelle H. lawsuit settlement that relate to the restrictions regarding age, county of origin and length of stay of children in state custody. This is because of the homes’ records of high quality children’s services and outcomes and their national accreditation by the Council of Accreditation.
The Rev. John Holler, Epworth president and chief executive officer, offered one small change. Toward the end of the resolution, where it resolves that a committee appointed by the bishop research and plan to prevent unintended negative consequences, the change specifies that the committee comprise two Epworth staffers and six members of the Campaign for Children in Poverty, a task force of the annual conference, instead of two district superintendents and the conference chancellor.
In addition to exempting the three homes from the lawsuit settlement, the resolution specifies certain directives, such as that DSS cease placing non-therapeutic children in therapeutic foster parent homes as a solution to meeting the requirements of Michelle H, or refrain from the practice of placing children in the first and/or closest bed available without regard to the quality of services. It resolves that sibling groups not be separated unless it is demonstrated through a clinical assessment that it is in the best interest of the sibling group, that the maximum number of children residing in a foster parent home be reduced to six, rather than eight as is now permitted.
Resolution Designating Old Bethel United Methodist Church, Charleston, a United Methodist Historic Site
The body passed this resolution, recommended by the Committee on Resolutions, with no debate or amendments.
Submitted by the Commission on Archives and History, this resolution lifts up Old Bethel as the third oldest church building in the city of Charleston and the oldest Methodist structure in the city.
“Old Bethel has long been one of the cornerstones of Methodism in Charleston and in the South Carolina Conference, representing over two centuries of history as well as the transition of African-American Methodism from slavery to freedom,” the resolution notes.
Construction on the building began in 1797 and was completed in 1807 as the sanctuary of Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church. Bethel built a new sanctuary in 1852, moving the old sanctuary to a new site where it was used by the church’s African-American members; it was given to its African-American congregation and moved again to its present location in 1880. Old Bethel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The resolution thus designates Old Bethel UMC as a historic site of the South Carolina Annual Conference, to be registered with the General Commission on Archives and History.
Resolution Affirming Current Language in Book of Discipline Regarding Human Sexuality
The body passed a motion to refer this resolution to the South Carolina delegation elected to serve at General Conference 2019, which will be addressing issues of human sexuality. As Simoneaux said for the Committee on Resolutions in recommending the referral, “It’s hard for us to vote on the Discipline; it is what it is. It’s really the delegation that has the power to do that.”
This resolution affirms current language in the UMC Book of Discipline that states homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The resolution aligns the conference in agreement with these positions and resolves to “challenge the leaders of the United Methodist Church—lay people, ordained pastors and bishops—to rely on Scripture and not societal pressure to determine the way forward for The United Methodist Church and to abide by the Book of Discipline’s governance of the denomination.” The resolution was submitted by pastors and members of several South Carolina United Methodist churches, including Covenant, Greer; Mount Horeb, Lexington; Trenholm Road, Columbia; Christ, Myrtle Beach; and Chapin, Chapin.
Read full text of all the resolutions at www.umcsc.org/ac2018.
By Jessica Brodie