Trusting in the Exhaustion of the Body

Last night, the deadline for finishing the legislative work of the General Conference was 11:15pm. We were told this at about three in the afternoon, and it seemed like ages away. Since the “hot button issues” of the GC were at the end of the list of things the GC would deal with that day, the progressives I was sitting with were getting a little bit worried that they would come up and be voted on at the end of the session.

It is important to understand the kind of mood people are in at the end of a legislative session. Delegates are tired, frustrated, and annoyed by what is often a tiring, frustrating, and annoying process. In my experience, people tend to give up on having meaningful conversations and simply vote just along established lines in order to get the work over with. Or they throw things which should be discussed and amended back onto a slate or a consent calendar and just go along with the decision of the committee.

Since the legislation at the end of the calendar was largely unfavorable to the various constituencies of the Common Witness Coalition, we knew that the end-of-session exhaustion wouldn’t bode well for the outcomes. If it came to the floor, we could expect strengthened anti-gay language, removal of some of the “Self-avowed, practicing homosexual” language*, and changing the Church’s stance on abortion to align more closely with that of the Republican party.

But then the news broke around 4:30 in the afternoon that the restructuring plan passed earlier in the week, planUMC, was unconstitutional. That left the body with mere hours to pass budgets, elections, and restructuring proposals which would be needed to keep the organization of the United Methodist Church running for the next four years.

That certainly changed things.

And so it was, at 10:30ish that the presiding bishop suggested it might be a good time to adjourn. White cards (used for questions, motions, points of order and amendments) flew into the air. In the next five minutes two motions came to the floor and were quickly defeated with no discussion. One was to return to discussion of what to do about the previously tabled planUMC. That was voted down by 50.98% to 49.02% (numbers from @mfsavoices). The other was a motion to consider the petition to withdraw the UMC from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which with no discussion failed 58% to 42%.

After that, it was the motion to adjourn, and that passed 89% to 11%. So in the end, the exhaustion of the body worked in favor of my coalition. But it could have just as easily gone the other way. Some people breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of the session. Some breathed a sigh of frustration and discouragement. In any case, though, we were finished, and it was time to move on and figure out how to be the United Methodist Church the best way we can.

 

*In and of itself, that’s not so bad. The petition in question equally discriminated against unmarried clergy persons having sexual contact with people of either sex. It did, however, exclude same-sex marriage from the kind of marriage that “counts” in that situation. The biggest problem was that the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the United Methodist Church would be removed, allowing for the possibility of clergy being charged without choosing to be.

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