General Conference adopts Bishop’s proposal after contentious debate

General Conference adopts Bishop’s proposal after contentious debate


By Jay Voorhees, executive editor
UM Reporter

In what can only be called a contentious debate, the 2016 General Conference eventually adopted the Council of Bishops “Offering a Way Forward” proposal during the first-afternoon session today.  The session began with the rejection of an original motion offered by the Rev. Adam Hamilton and was marred with accusations that the presiding bishop, William McAlilly had been telegraphing votes to delegates and had undermined the process so as to cause the Hamilton motion to be defeated.

The Hamilton motion had been debated in the morning session of the conference but had not been acted upon as the delegates went to lunch. McAlilly was asked to pick up the debate in mid-stream.

After a confusing debate with many points of order, amendments, substitutions, and other parliamentary actions, the conference chose not to support the Hamilton amendment by less than 45 votes. During the debate McAlilly was accused by one delegate of telegraphing votes through the use of hand signals, an accusation that McAlilly received but denied, saying that he would sit on his hands if he needed to.

It was after the vote on the Hamilton motion that Jen Ihlo, a lay delegate from the Baltimore-Washington Conference, accused McAlilly of inappropriate actions in presiding, and called for his removal from the chair. McAlilly then called for a ten-minute recess to determine the way forward.

During the recess, African delegation members joined in song in the plenary hall, while other delegates looked dazed at all that had happened.

The recess ended with McAlilly still in the chair as the session resumed. The chair of the conference’s Committee on Presiding Officers, Judy Zabel, was joined by the committee at the podium acknowledging that it had been a difficult session, but affirming the committee’s support of Bishop McAlilly and their decision to have him continue to lead the conference for the rest of the session.

McAlilly then informed the conference that the debate on the bishop’s proposal was not settled and that the conference still had the opportunity to receive and perfect the Bishop’s report. George Howard  of the West Ohio Annual Conference then arose to make a motion to accept the full proposal of the bishops in full (Hamilton’s motion had only drawn on portions of the bishop’s proposal). After additional debate, again with many points of order, the General Conference voted to adopt the bishop’s proposal by a vote of 428 to 405 (23 votes).

The proposal calls for the General Conference to defer all votes on human sexuality and refer all of those items to a special commission that will be created by the Council of Bishops. This commission is charged with developing a “complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.” The commission is asked to complete their work in time for a called General Conference to be held before the 2020 General Conference.

In response to the action of the General Conference, Matt Berryman of the Reconciling Ministries Network (a group which advocates for full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church) released the following statement:

This historic action by the Council of Bishops (COB) represents a significant institutional shift in the direction of inclusion and equality. It is just a beginning, but it signals hope to an end of church trials, to celebrating all marriages, to accepting the gifts of our LGBTQ candidates for ministry, clergy and lay employees. 

This is the first time the COB has put their collective voice around the urgent cries for change and acceptance. We applaud their efforts knowing that the real work lies ahead. We call on the Council to act quickly and deliberately and to lead the church as promised.  Today, we commit to hold the COB accountable for finally bringing justice to The United Methodist Church.

The General Conference will be continuing their business this afternoon with Bishop Jeremiah Park as the presiding officer. It is likely that the conference will be considering the remaining items with financial implications which must be submitted to the General Council on Finance and Administration by this evening for consideration at Friday’s session.