Annual Conference season is underway and most of the reflections from these gatherings across the United States are focused on disaffiliation and the challenges inherent in our currently fracturing denomination. Though we have similar challenges in our own conference, there is some good news to highlight coming from our very own Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference where two pieces of legislation spoke with clarity to both our denomination and our culture.
First up is Petition 14 written by Dr. Rich Hoffman and Rev. Dawn Krishart to send a strong message from the Western PA Annual Conference of the UMC to the commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding degrading behavior against female athletes, specifically imploring them to immediately enact legislation that would bar biological males from competing in female exclusive sports competitions and participating as members of female exclusive teams. The avenue for messaging to the commonwealth through United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania to petition for the enactment of this legislation by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and to produce a report of actions they have taken and the results of their work. Discussion was robust in the section meeting and the legislation passed. It was then presented on the floor of the Annual Conference on the final day, Saturday, June 4, where it also again passed. This is certainly cause for praise on the part of the writers bringing the legislation and the body of delegates who voted in support of women advocating for them to enjoy the benefits of fair competition. We are grateful to be a voice for these women.
A second piece of legislation written by Brenda Russell and Renaye Hoffman, laity, and Rev. Roy Gearhart regarding Guidance on Local Church Reporting. With the 2021 required reporting of local churches to report statistics to the General Conference on Finance and Administration, new reporting was rolled out including an additional gender category beyond male and female - a “non-binary” category which conflicts with the current Book of Discipline that identifies only two genders. This new requirement put those reporting in a situation in which they would either be in violation of the Book of Discipline or of reporting to GCF&A. The legislation was presented in section where it passed and then came to the floor where it was amended and subsequently passed.
In both of these pieces, the prevailing message is one of clarity and hope as the writers and the advocates of those impacted spoke the truth in their love for God and love for their neighbors. We live in a hurting and broken and confused world that is desperate for words of hope and healing and clarity from the church that Jesus is building. We are grateful to speak these words and that they resonated with the people. Our prayer is always to point people to Jesus who is the only one who can bring healing and wholeness out of our brokenness. For the full text of these pieces of legislation, check out the link below to P14 and P23: