2015 annual Conference report
MIND Legislation Overwhelmingly Supported by Annual Conference
MIND’s petitions related to anti-racism work and sexuality issues all were easily passed by the Annual Conference on Friday, including “Bringing to Reality a Beloved and Just Community.” This legislation commits our conference to be “a place of safety, equality and welcome for LGBTQI lay persons, clergy, candidates for ministry and their families.”
The urgent need for this stance became evident during the debate on the lone piece of MIND legislation not on the consent calendar, "Amend Discipline Paragraph 161.F on Human Sexuality." The hate language used by opponents of this petition to denigrate the humanity of LGBTQI people was severe, challenged and denounced by two queer delegates, in one case eliciting hisses from the floor and a reprimand from Bishop Middleton.
The petitions passed, but we were reminded that this Annual Conference is not a place of safety for LGBTQI persons. This work urgently needed and far from over.
MIND Steering Committee Member Receives Dale and Gwen White Award
Reverend Scott Summerville was honored at the Methodist Federation for Social Action dinner with the Gwen and C. Dale White Award for social justice. Last year’s recipient and Chair of MIND, Reverend Sara Thompson Tweedy introduced Reverend Summerville, “He has recognized the privileges that come with being straight, white, and male and used that privilege to advocate for justice.”
In his own remarks to the gathering, Reverend Summerville declared, “Identity is sacred space; it is holy ground. This insight is directly related to the work of MIND and our struggle to change our church. To deny one’s own identity is to experience a kind of living death. To deny another person’s identity, to suggest that an individual’s identity is a mistake, to suggest that identity is something one can change or should change is sin because it strikes at that holy place.”
Reverend Summerville currently leads a segment of The We Are! project for Methodists in New Directions. He provided critical leadership for the We Did! Project. This award is well deserved and we applaud his efforts!
Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer Miller: "We speak the language of love, but we are not soft"
Rev. Dr. Althea Spencer Miller addressed a packed room at yesterday's MIND luncheon with messages of justice and solidarity for all who struggle, reminding us of the many ways that injustice in the struggle of others must not be allowed to go unchecked. As the struggle for LGBTQI inclusion makes progress, she cautioned us "not to replicate existing social exclusions when we arrive," and that "Any one form of social oppression cannot be overcome in isolation from other forms of oppression." We offer our thanks to Althea for her wisdom and her leadership in this work.
Near the end of the program, MIND was glad to receive a word of welcome from Bishop Middleton, saying that the conference would never be the same, due to MIND's ongoing work and witness. MIND was delighted to have Bishop Middleton present, and to receive her encouragement and support of our work.
Annual Conference Recap
There are many reasons for MIND to do a victory lap at the conclusion of the 216th Session of the New York Annual Conference. We passed key legislation committing our conference to be “a place of safety, equality, and welcome for LGBTQI lay persons, clergy, candidates for ministry and their families.” Other legislative efforts were successful too, including our petition to General Conference to amend Paragraph 161.F of the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This petition removes all language which would exclude LGB persons from ministry in or with the church.
Revered Dr. Althea Spencer Miller gave an outstanding address to a packed room at MIND’s annual luncheon. She reminded us of the many ways that injustice in the struggle of others must not be allowed to go unchecked. She cautioned us that “any one form of social oppression cannot be overcome in isolation from other forms of oppression.” Her words remind us all that we must not only be committed to LGBTQI justice, but for all those who are marginalized and oppressed.
With all of the good that came out of conference, however, MIND is not running that victory lap. During the plenary session on Friday of the Annual Conference came some of the most vile hate speech this conference has heard to date directed at LGBTQI persons. In defense of their own personal dignity, two queer delegates took the floor and called for a point of order to stop the hate speech. Finally, the Bishop offered a reprimand to the offender asking that he watch his language.
Hate speech is about more than watching language. Hate speech is, by its very nature, designed to denigrate a person’s humanity and is a form of emotional, spiritual, and psychological violence. It has no place in the United Methodist Church, yet it is codified in the Book of Discipline and the mere fact that it is voiced in one of most accepting annual conferences in the connection is evidence that the church, nor our conference is that place of safety yet.