Many of the U.S. meetings were marked by sharp exchanges between progressive and conservative delegates, with presiding bishops trying in vain to keep the discourse civil.
“I beg of you, listen with open minds,” implored Bishop LaTrelle Easterling on the opening day of the Baltimore-Washington conference, as she convened a session on the divisive issues facing her Methodist family.
Before long, however, the deep disagreements over LGBT issues became clear. Rev. Kevin Baker of Olney, Maryland, representing the “traditional” UMC view on marriage and sexuality, objected to the suggestion that the church’s position means it does not welcome LGBT people. “The narrative that I know is that we want all people here,” Baker said, “but that we see that God calls us out of behaviors that are not in line with his words.”
A few feet away, Rev. Michele Johns of Silver Spring, Maryland, identifying herself as Queer, grew visibly upset at the suggestion that God does not approve of her behavior.
“I don’t know how much more I can bear listening to hate,” she said. “I don’t believe God hates me. I believe there are those in the Methodist church who do. And I feel it. Right now, I feel it.”