By: Christa Meland
Members of Annual Conference debated and voted on a number of pieces of legislation on Thursday and Friday. Here’s a synopsis of key items; all were approved by the voting body.
• General Conference petitions on homosexuality: Members approved eight General Conference petitions related to homosexuality. Seven of them, which were discussed together, call on the legislative body for the global United Methodist Church to remove all “discriminatory language about homosexuality” from The Book of Discipline. The other one calls for a change that would allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages and for such ceremonies to be performed within United Methodist churches when authorized by vote of the annual conference where the clergy person is appointed or the church is located—or by a two-thirds vote of the church conference where the clergy person is appointed. Members who supported and opposed the legislation had a respectful and productive discussion about the legislation before the votes were taken.
• Open letter about inclusiveness: Members voted to approve the sending of an open letter that will be sent to Bishop Bruce Ough, the Cabinet, and the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry; the letter asks those groups to support ministry that’s “unshackled by those rules inscribed in our Book of Discipline that continue to exclude and discriminate against those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) as well as place barriers between them and our clergy persons seeking to minister to all.”
• Reducing the carbon footprint of church buildings: Conference members approved a resolution to reduce the carbon footprint of our church buildings. The legislation, submitted by the Hopeful Earth Steering Committee, calls for the conference to “encourage all of our congregations to estimate the carbon footprint” of our buildings, determine how to reduce it, and implement those changes. All congregations that reduce their carbon footprint by 10 percent or more will be recognized at the 2016 Annual Conference.
• Boycott of SodaStream: Members voted to approve a boycott of SodaStream products in accordance with a resolution passed at the 2012 General Conference, which advocated boycotting such products. Palestine Israel Justice Project and the Church and Society Ministry Team said that SodaStream products are manufactured in a Jewish settlement on land that was taken from Palestinians living in occupied territories in violation of international law. The action is mean to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and negotiate peace with the Palestinians.
• Pursuing justice: Members voted to approve a resolution that encourages Minnesota residents and United Methodists to support a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require gubernatorial, merit-based selection for all judicial vacancies; performance evaluations of judges by a public commission; and voter retention or rejection of judges after each term. Those who submitted the resolution cite Exodus 18:12—“You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain…”—and the denomination’s Social Principles, which state that “the church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just…”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church