Removing about a third of the existing text and adding a statement limiting sexual relations to “monogamous, heterosexual marriage,” the nearly 1,000 delegates to the United Methodist General Conference, meeting today (April 30) in Fort Worth, Texas, amending the church’s statement on human sexuality.

The statement, which appears in paragraph 161 (G) of the denomination’s Social Principles, will now include a sentence saying that “Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.” It also commends United Methodists to “affirm that God’s grace is available to all” and to “seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us.”

The phrase “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” which a number of petitioners (including Minnesota Annual Conference Session 2002) (see petition 80028) sought to remove, remains in the paragraph.

A majority recommendation from the conference’s Church and Society Legislative Committee had proposed changes to that paragraph that acknowledged that “faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness.” Despite the fact that the majority of the legislative committee members (including people of varying viewpoints) supported that and similar changes, the minority recommendation prevailed on the floor by a vote of 501-417.

After the vote and as the afternoon session drew to a close, hundreds of observers in the balconies and many delegates on the floor stood in silent protest. Eventually the group broke into several choruses of “Jesus Loves Me.”

Article by Victoria Rebeck, Director of Communications, Minnesota Annual Conference

Personal comment: This is some of the best news I’ve seen from the General Conference in many years. This means that the UMC affirms the sanctity of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, consistent with our statement in the discipline which prohibits our clergy from doing weddings for homosexual couples, and the use of UM facilities for homosexual weddings. The UMC General Conference has made stronger and stronger statements every year they have met concerning the sin of homosexual practice and its incompatibility with the Christian Faith. It’s time for them to finally “put their foot down” and refuse to consider the questions any more. -GZ