Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on human sexuality legislation at Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
In May 2015, the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference passed 6 pieces of legislation concerning human sexuality and its treatment in the Book of Discipline and within Greater New Jersey. You can read the legislation that was passed here. The vote on the six resolutions was very close with as few as 23 votes separating those who supported and those who did not. While the legislation passed, the people of Greater New Jersey are not of one mind about human sexuality.
The United Methodists of Greater New Jersey have a variety of beliefs that range from
- The legislation passed is not in accordance with the Bible and the teachings of the United Methodist Church.
- I do not agree that gays and lesbians should marry but I do not want for this to be the concern that shapes our church.
- I am not sure how to understand what the Bible says but when I read the Bible, I do not see us treating gay and lesbian people as Jesus treated all people.
- The Bible is the word of God but not the literal word of God. The Bible is written in a period of time with particular understandings and God’s truth is unfolding in each generation like the ordination of women in The United Methodist Church.
How does the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling affect our decisions in the church?
The denomination has resources about the ruling and the church. To access these resources please click here.
Why did the Bishop and the conference pass these resolutions?
None of the legislation regarding human sexuality were proposed by the Bishop or Conference leadership, boards or committees. Four of the pieces of legislation were submitted by a congregation and the other two were submitted by an individual and her congregation. The conference did not endorse the legislation.
Immediately after the vote and before the results where tallied, Bishop John Schol stated that he is the bishop of all people and it is not his intention to change people’s minds but to create space for people to hold differing views of a very difficult and divisive concerns within the church. Along with the conference’s leadership, Bishop Schol will ensure that congregations may continue to read the Bible, pray and listen for God’s call for their congregation. Bishop Schol will continue to honor Wesleyan theology which is “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
What changes in our churches as a result of this legislation?
The votes at annual conference did not change the policy of the church. The four pieces of legislation that recommended changes to the Book of Discipline will be referred to General Conference for consideration in 2016. No changes to United Methodist doctrines or governance will occur unless a decision is made at General Conference in 2016.
The other two pieces of legislation concern how Greater New Jersey will respond to issues of human sexuality and marriage. Specifically they state that GNJ will commit to being an inclusive church, will make a public statement supporting marriage equality and will support clergy with prayer who may be brought up on charges for marrying two people of the same gender.
Why was there no debate about the legislation on the floor of annual conference?
The annual conference members voted not to have a floor debate. It was a 90% plus vote. When given a choice, they voted to engage in a process of holy conferencing and small groups conversations. Also, there was a motion to table the legislation indefinitely so that it would neither be discussed nor voted on during annual conference. This amendment was defeated by more than 95% of the conference members. At the end, the annual conference members chose to vote on the legislation and voted for how the legislation would be handled.
What if my congregation does not agree with the resolutions?
No one is seeking to change your congregation. The Bishop and cabinet of Greater New Jersey are committed to leading all United Methodists in the conference regardless of their position on human sexuality. Individuals and congregations may continue to hold their views on this issue. Churches that struggle about human sexuality have the opportunity to continue discerning God’s calling for their congregation. As United Methodists we remain committed to our common mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
What is the conference leadership doing to support congregations’ discernment and conversation about human sexuality?
A team is being organized on Human Sexuality that will identify the needs of Greater New Jersey related to ongoing human sexuality conversations and the most recent annual conference vote. The task force will provide resources to assist understanding and conversation within congregations about the present UMC human sexuality conversation that helps all of our congregations to feel valued and honored and helps recognize that good people of faith can disagree and continue in faithful relationship with God and one another.
Where can I find more information about how the denomination and General Conference will handle this issue?
Leading into General Conference in 2016 there is widespread commentary and discussion. The following outlines several sources you can review to find out more information.
The denomination’s web site has many articles concerning the debate over human sexuality. You can find an index of these articles by clicking here.
The web site Religion and Politics has recently posted an overview of the issues facing the United Methodist Church. The article can be found here.
Adam Hamilton, a senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, a renowned author and leader within our denomination, is proposing a way to move the denomination forward while supporting congregations that hold differing views. To read his proposal click here.
For general information about General Conference 2016, click here.
Still have questions?
The leaders of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey are deeply concerned about our congregations and the struggles they may face as they prayerfully consider these issues. This page is dedicated to helping facilitate questions and concerns that you may have.
To submit a question or concern, please click here and we will add your question and the response to our list or answer your concern individually.