Even those who disagreed with Andrew Smith’s petition admired the lay delegate from Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church in New Orleans and his courage for proposing Petition #1 to the Louisiana Conference during Annual Conference 2019.
The petition spoke to the work of the General Conference, specifically the passing of the Traditional Plan, which affirmed and strengthened the current policies of the United Methodist Church which does not allow same-sex weddings or the ordination of LGBTQ people.
His petition stated the following, “Be it, therefore, resolved that the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church denounces the passage of the Traditional Plan at the 2019 General Conference, and apologizes for the harm it has caused to LGBTQ+ persons, their families and friends, and the Church as a whole. We affirm all persons as individuals of sacred worth, and reject any form of discrimination that prevents any person from full participation in the life of the Church.”
The debate surrounding the petition took up most of the afternoon session and included passionate speeches for and against.
“For 18 years, I was told by the Baptist Church that I was an abomination, or as we Methodists like to say, just a little nicer, ‘incompatible’, said Adam Philley of Shreveport. “For the past fifteen years, I have been silent. Yet in the last fifteen years, I have been creating relationships with and for people all across this Conference. People who have seen that God can use even me and many of them have had no idea about my sexuality. And yet, we fed the hungry and clothed the naked. Passing this petition would send a message to that small child in rural Louisiana that might be gay and being told that he is going to hell.”
In a speech against, Rev. Woody Hingle from Lake Vista United Methodist Church stood to argue that the petition is misleading from a Scriptural standpoint and defended the Traditional Plan. “The traditional plan is not mean spirited,” he said, “It affirms what we as Methodists have affirmed all along – that God has made us in His image and we are of infinite worth. As Jesus started his ministry, he started with a call for repentance. Repent – the kingdom of God is near. If we ever lose that notion of repentance, that we are in a very troubled place as a church.”
Andrew Hedlesky in Lake Charles stood up in favor of the petition, despite his personal belief that engaging in homosexual activity is a sin. He shared a quote from Gandhi that he often uses in his work as an anger management specialist. “I tell people all the time what Gandhi said, ‘any act to impose your free will on another is an act of violence.’, he said, “You don’t have to agree 100% to love – there are things that I don’t agree with – but I am still a Methodist.”
Pat Quick from Christ United Methodist Church in Shreveport rose to speak against the petition by urging for peace. “People have felt disenfranchised and if we vote for this, we will have a lot of people upset and damaged,” he said, “We don’t need any more of that. We need to be people of peace. Let’s see if maybe we can withhold a one-sided resolution and be able to stand closer to each other rather than stand in pain.”
As the vote came, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey paused to pray.
“Gracious God, here we are! But most importantly, You are here and for that we are thankful,” she prayed, “There is a lot of brokenness on both sides and we try to do the right thing that is pleasing to you so as we prepare to take this vote may it be done prayerfully, in love, and with a heart of peace with an intent to do no harm.”
Bishop Harvey then asked everyone to pick up the baptismal bowls, located on each table in the Shreveport Convention Center. She asked everyone to dip their hands in the water, to remember their baptisms.
“Help us remember our claiming,” her prayer continued. Help us remember that we are beloved children of God.”
The petition ultimately failed by 20 votes: 360 against and 340 for.
Annual Conference 2019 resumes tomorrow in Shreveport Louisiana for the Louisiana Conference.