Members of the annual conference deliberate during the 2012 session at the TRAC Center in Pasco, Washington. Photo by Patrick Scriven.
(Pasco, Wash.) – United Methodist from across Washington and the northern panhandle of Idaho passed legislation supporting SB 6239, known also as the Marriage Equality Act, during their annual conference held June 21-24 at the TRAC Center in the Tri-Cities. The resolution “encourage(s) all people to approve Referendum 74 so that the Marriage Equality Act can be put into law.”
As a denomination, The United Methodist Church declares that all people are of sacred worth but also holds that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not allowed to serve as clergy in the denomination and the celebration of homosexual unions is prohibited by church law in United Methodist churches with clergy also restricted from performing them.
Many United Methodists in this region, the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, experience a lack of congruence between the denomination’s hardened stance against homosexuality and its historic affirmations of the rights of all people. Difficult conversations have taken place and the memory of church trials still linger for some.
A resolution titled, “A response to the Spiritual Crisis Caused by the Requirement to Discriminate” aimed to name that conflict and asks those involved in discerning punishment to consider this tension. If SB 6239 does become the law of Washington state, it is inevitable that clergy will be asked to perform ceremonies as they seek to “offer the sacraments and rituals of the church on and equal basis” as the resolution words it. This second piece of legislation also passed with a clear majority.
When it gathered earlier this year, The United Methodist Church’s top legislative body, the General Conference, discussed but did not adopt language for it’s Book of Discipline that would have acknowledged differing beliefs of the issue. Many that disagree with the churches current stance define their objections in terms of justice and make comparisons to historic struggles for the rights of women and African-Americans.
Unlike other mainline denominations, the church has struck a path toward being both global and democratic in nature. Despite a softening of views by many United Methodists mirroring larger US societal trends, the church is also growing members globally who tend to be theologically conservative. General Conference is the only entity that speaks for The United Methodist Church and will likely revisit the matter in 2016.
For a summary of the legislative work of the 2012 session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and the complete text of the aforementioned resolutions, visit our website: Click Here