The Wisconsin delegation worked through the second day of General Conference, beginning with a summary review of the various proposed plans for the future of The United Methodist Church, moving through the prioritization of the 78 legislative petitions, and nominating and electing a chair, vice chair, and secretary for our legislative process sessions.  We also enacted two petitions from Wespath concerning clergy pension issues.  Opening worship focused on a biblical and theological call to unity and faithful trust in the will and work of God and the Holy Spirit.

I met with dozens of delegates, alternates, and guests today, but one encounter stands out.  I had a few moments with our own Amy DeLong who shared her disappointment and anger that I didn’t talk about the LGBTQ+ presence at this General Conference.  The motivation for this special session is our denomination’s impasse about our relationship to LGBTQ+ persons.  The plans for our way forward as a denomination do not call us to a full inclusiveness, nor do they move us from our current divisions toward a true unity.  Not only do we not acknowledge the harm and violence done to a sizeable segment of our community, but we sometimes begrudgingly allow that “we” should be in ministry “to” them.  Rarely do we wrestle with what it would mean to openly and honestly be in ministry “with” them.  What we virtually never do is celebrate the gifted and spiritual ministry “of” our LGBTQ+ brothers/sisters/siblings.  Our United Methodist Church has a heritage of welcoming the widest and broadest range of theological inquiry and biblical interpretation.  Sadly, instead of finding ways to continue to expand our horizons, we stand on the threshold of narrowing our focus and demanding a more restrictive interpretation of God’s will for all God’s children.  It was important for me to hear once again the pain of my friends and colleagues who are being told they do not belong in the body of Christ.

While there are different understandings, interpretations, reasonings and rationales, unfortunately we regularly forget the first General Rule to “do no harm.”  Our own faith stances and positions are important, and even when they differ as widely as is possible, we lose something sacred and lapse into terrible sin – intentional and unintentional – when we choose judgement over grace, condemnation over mercy, and punishment over forgiveness.  My time with Amy illustrates for me again that we are not “debating issues,” but we are engaged in the Spirit-work of building community and caring for loved ones. In the next two days, I pray that we might see the power of God’s Holy Spirit at General Conference through an outpouring of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Submitted by Dan Dick, Clergy Delegate