For the first time in sixteen years a coalition of moderate and progressive clergy (Centrists/Progressives United) took almost every slot in the election for clergy delegates to the General Conference. Seven of the eight clergy elected were clearly identified as moderates and progressives. In the past four General Conference elections, the Evangelical Fellowship of West Ohio (EFWO) has dominated the election with only a few moderates or progressive clergy elected. Another highlight of this year’s clergy election was the election of the Rev. Amy Aspey as the first clergy elected.
Amy is the first deacon and the first woman elected as the head of the clergy slate in the West Ohio conference.
While the election of lay delegates did not mirror the clergy results, three of the laity elected as General Conference delegates were members of the Centrist-Progressive Slate. One of these delegates is Mr. Bill Brownson. Bill is an out gay man who serves as the Director of Administration of the West Ohio Annual Conference. On Sunday night, following the opening worship for the Annual Conference session, over 200 clergy and laity packed the sanctuary of the Lakeside United Methodist Church for a rally and strategy session. Those present for the event represented the four groups that formed the coalition: the West Ohio Reconciling Ministries, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and the Centrists.
In legislative matters in West Ohio, the conference supported a resolution that will be forwarded to General Conference that calls for a study of the theology of marriage in The UMC. The petition originated in the West Ohio Reconciling group, but the resolution has support from a broad group of signers in the annual conference.
One other highlight of the conference was the recognition given to Sile Singleton. Sile is a member of Summit on 16th UMC. Her pastor nominated her for the Laity Denman Award. Sile is perhaps the first LBGT person to receive this award in the West Ohio Conference. As her pastor April Blaine noted,
“. . . to hear Bishop Palmer affirm her gifts for evangelism and discipleship and to have his remarks clearly grounded in her identity as an LGBT person felt like an enormous breakthrough. More than anything, it begins to break down the stereotypical labels we use to define what an evangelical person looks like. Another reminder of how the Spirit tears down the walls we try to create and helps us to find another way of living together in community.”
Finally, Brian Montgomery a lay member of this annual conference made a compelling statement to the conference about his relationship with his same gender partner during debate on an amendment to a resolution that would have called for a moratorium on conversation about homosexuality in The UMC – the amendment was defeated. Watch the video here.