441 to 79
Back in January and February, we used a bunch of pixels on this blog on the lead up to the Special General Conference. (Connect to the 6-part series here.) Admittedly, after all that happened in St. Louis, it took a while to post reactions here. Like most of you, I was stunned, saddened, and angry. I just couldn't believe -- or at least didn't want to believe -- that the denomination we love could be so cruel. But the naked truth is that passing the "Traditional" Plan* actually increases the UMC's discrimination against, and harm of, LGBTQ persons.
Our Northern Illinois Conference's (NIC) Annual Conference (AC) met the first week of June. What -- if anything -- did our Annual Conference do to resist the "Traditional" Plan?
I'm happy to report that the resistance is alive and well in NIC!
The NIC passed "10 pieces of legislation to be sent to the General Conference in 2020 for consideration. Most of the legislation supports the Simple Plan and the removal of discriminatory language against LGBTQ in the Book of Discipline." As I've previously written, I believe the Simple Plan to be the best way forward for the UMC.
Next, the NIC "voted to suspend payments to the General Administration Fund until changes are made to the structure and practices of the General Conference particularly in light of questions over voting irregularities at the February Special Session. The General Administration Fund underwrites General Conference and the Judicial Council."
Finally, the NIC took a "non-binding straw poll to gauge the annual conference on which direction it would choose for its future. The two choices included: 1) a conference whose policies allow for clergy to officiate at same-gender weddings, allow for consideration of ordained ministry people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, and in which appointments are made with consideration given to the full range of contextual realities, or 2) according to the Book of Discipline as amended in 2019."
I'm thrilled to pass along that our Annual Conference voted "441 for option #1 and 79 for option #2." (And now you know the inspiration for the title of this post.) 441 to 79 gives me hope.
Read more about all the NIC AC legislation here.
Read a broader summation of the AC here.
The NIC AC Mission Challenge was to provide "new clean towels, soap, toothbrushes, and many other personal hygiene items to help people locally and globally through a disaster or humanitarian crisis thanks to Northern Illinois United Methodists." The effort brought in "50,000 items or 5,271 pounds!" That's pretty awesome. Read more about the Mission Challenge here.
But don't think it will easy sailing to full LGBTQ inclusion. One of the NIC's leading voices against loving affirmation retired at AC, but vowed to continue "developing the network of the Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association." The Wesleyan Covenant Association is the main group behind the passing of the "Traditional" Plan.
Still, I'm hopeful for the future of the NIC and for the UMC. Let us all remember that "resistance is built on hope."
*I will always use scare quotes when naming the "Traditional" plan. I concede that, in the strictest sense, maintaining the virulently anti-LGBTQ+ language and actions in that Plan continues the tradition of the United Methodist Church. However, from the beginning of the Jesus movement, a gender fluid person was baptized and welcomed as a disciple of Christ without hesitation or question (e.g. Acts 8). That scripture is obviously much, much older than the "tradition" of the UMC (and the incident itself is even older still), so why isn't welcoming and affirming our tradition? Why does the plan that excludes and cruelly punishes get to claim "tradition"?