I am not drawing many conclusions yet because tomorrow can change everything. Two things are certain:
1) If you are in the progressive theological camp you are hurting now. One of the Spanish language terms for “I’m sorry” translates as “I feel it.” Whether or not you are ready to hear it yet, the traditionalist/orthodox/evangelical United Methodists I am in contact with truly feel your hurt…at least insofar as we can imagine how we would feel if things were going the other way. Some of you will need time to grieve and ought to be allowed some anger.
2) Substantial numbers of people will be leaving the UMC in the very near future. Depending on how badly the Conference handles the work before it tomorrow those numbers could include both progressive and traditionalist members and clergy. Karen and I have already notified our church that tomorrow’s events determine whether or not we return next Sunday.
At this hour, this is how things stand. All votes (when votes have been allowed) have been unmistakably in the conservative direction. The legislative committee is only recommending three items for tomorrow’s business: a traditional plan which affirms all of our doctrinal standards including the Scriptural understanding of marriage, and two plans of disaffiliation that will allow churches and Annual Conferences who cannot live with our Discipline to leave the denomination with their property. All attempts to redefine our sexual ethic failed.
The proceedings were handled fairly, expeditiously, and with decorum. The sessions were presided over by trained laity assisted by a professional parliamentarian. They have performed with integrity.
Tomorrow’s session will be presided over by bishops, and all of that changes. Our bishop’s are notorious for not following rules and have a history at General Conference of facilitating protests, disruptions, and delays. The traditional plan which the delegates have approved by a substantial majority is one which the bishops have opposed and worked hard to keep from ever coming to a vote. The amendments necessary to make this plan work must be adopted while the these bishops hold the chair. Given our experience with past General Conferences, that does not look good.
So far all we have is proposed words in a book with no requirement that anyone pay attention to them even if they are ratified. They are good words. Tomorrow we will know if they mean anything.