Report from 2019 Annual Conference in Topeka, KS
Rev. Lee Johnson
Last week at the Great Plains Annual Conference in Topeka, the Asbury Church and Society Committee brought a petition before the conference asking the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis to appoint a commission to "identify reliable, peer-reviewed information regarding what is known about the factors influencing the development of sexual orientation and to assemble a study guide to be distributed to all local United Methodist Churches." The committee's petition came from an article written by Dr. Barbara Lukert and Rev. Lee Johnson titled: "Scripture, Science, and Sexuality." (Read the article in its entirety at www.visitasbury.org) The petition was one of the last pieces of business conducted at the Annual Conference. It was presented by Dr. Lukert and passed overwhelmingly on a show of hands.
The Annual Conference also passed two "resolutions" which become the official response of Great Plains Annual Conference to the passing of the Traditional Plan at the General Conference in February. (The Traditional Plan imposes further restrictions on the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of The United Methodist Church.) One resolution states: "Be it resolved the Great Plains Annual Conference condemns the decision of the 2019 General Conference to pass the Traditional Plan and apologizes for the harm that it has caused LGBTQ persons, their families, their friends, and the body of Christ." The second resolution states: "We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation."
The conference also passed a petition to General Conference 2020 that was written by a UM endocrinologist calling for actual scientific facts about sexual orientation that reads in part: "THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the UMC will charge the General Board of Church and Society with the task of appointing a commission which will identify reliable, peer-reviewed information regarding what is known about the factors influencing the development of sexual orientation, and assemble a study guide which will be distributed to the local churches by January 2022."
Both resolution votes passed with significant support of the conference. With 1,000 votes cast, the decisions were both 60% in favor and 40% not in favor. Also, it should be noted, 61% of all votes cast were done so by laity indicating broad support from both lay and clergy members of the Annual Conference.