NEJ supports 'Non-Conformity' resolution; ruled out of order

July 14, 2016

The delegates of the Northeastern Jurisdiction voted 91 to 74 in favor of the Non-Conformity Resolution, which called on the NEJ not to comply paragraphs of the Book of Discipline that discriminate against members of the LGBTQAI community – despite it being ruled out of order.

In presenting the resolution, Steve Dry, lay delegate from New England, said:

“Non-conformity is obviously against the Book of Discipline; that is the point. For those who want to put this in order, please don’t,” he said. “The purpose of this resolution is to have a principled discussion about whether or not we as jurisdiction are going to continue to do harm and to discriminate against me and other LGBTQ people.”

The resolution echoes the legislation passed by the New England Annual Conference at its session in June (Other conferences across the connection adopted similar resolutions.). Dry spoke of the effects of that legislation, which has also been challenged.

“I was finally proud to be from my Annual Conference. We spoke truth to power, but even more, I was surprise by the ripple effect the decision had … we empowered others to speak their truths,” Dry said, citing the Asian caucus, which called for funding and full recognition; people of color who named racism openly, and women who “boldly demanded recognition” for the 60th anniversary of the full ordination of women.

“We have seen the power of non-conformity,” Dry said. “Non-conformity allowed us to deeply honor our differences and created a space of conversation, empowerment and collaboration.”

In talking about why the resolution was deemed out of order, Bishop John Schol cited the title and paragraphs 2 and 3, “which specifically talk about not following the Discipline.”

Even though the resolution is an encouragement rather than a mandate, the bishop said, Judicial Council Decision 1292 prohibits a body even from encouraging rejection of the Discipline.

Presiding Bishop Peggy Johnson allowed discussion of the resolution despite the ruling, and there were passionate voices raised on both sides.
Rev. Scott Campbell
“I don’t know what the bishops will do, eventually, with this; I don’t know what a Judicial Council will do, eventually, with this,” he said. “I do know that neither of those conditions ought to inhibit us from speaking our truth. Neither of those conditions ought to limit this body from determining where it will cast its weight.”

He quoted “an old preachers’ saw” that his father used:

“You say the efforts that I make will do no good; they will never prevail to tip the hovering scale where Justice hangs in the balance. I don't think I ever thought they would. But I am prejudiced beyond all debate in favor of my right to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.”

“I invite us to cast the stubborn ounces of our weight in the Northeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church on the side of what is right,” Rev. Campbell said.

Speaking against the resolution, Rev. Mark Flynn of the West Virginia Conference, spoke of his ordination in 1985:
Rev. Mark Flynn

“(I) promised to uphold the doctrines and polity of The United Methodist Church. I know the people of Morris Memorial United Methodist Church expect me to keep those promises. I know the people of the West Virginia Annual Conference expect me to keep those promises. I believe that God expects me to keep those promises. Please do not ask me to break them. I love people. I love the Bible. I believe the current position of The United Methodist Church is the right position. I love and respect people who believe otherwise, but please don’t ask me to break my promises.”

A motion to refer the resolution to the Council of Bishops’ Commission on Human Sexuality was not supported.

After the vote, Vicki Flippin of the New York Conference thanked the College of Bishops for allowing the conversation.

 “ … I am making the invitation that you would join us in being out of order,” she said. “That you would say, as a College, something as bold as you said
Rev. Vicki Flippin
on Tuesday morning, and you would join us in our non-conformity.”

Bishop Johnson said she would bring the invitation to her colleagues.

J.J. Warren, of the Upper New York Conference, spoke of his disappointment that the bishops had not discussed ruling the Stop Church Trials resolution out of order; Bishop Thomas Bickerton ruled that legislation out of order.  

Warren said that when he was asked what he wanted to see in a bishop he said, “what I want to see is fire” and someone who “excites me for Jesus in this world.”

Warren said the decision felt like it was made without being discussed by the whole college as he was told it would be.

“I feel lied to by the people that I love, by the people I look up to … you have let us down,” Warren said, adding that the fire he felt in the morning had dissipated.

The text of the resolution in the July 11, 2016 Daily Christian Advocate