United Methodists who gathered recently for a once-every-four-years meeting made headlines both for what they did and what they did not do.
A delegation of Oklahomans, both laity and clergy, attended the United Methodists' General Conference April 24 through May 4 in Tampa, Fla. The elected delegates serve as the legislative body for the denomination.
The Rev. Bob Long, senior pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 222 NW 15, was among the delegates from the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference. The conference sent nine clergy delegates and nine lay delegates to participate in the conference where a total of about 988 delegates met.
More than 1,200 petitions about various issues were submitted for consideration by the General Conference delegates,
Long said delegates from more than 60 nations discussed several hot-button issues affecting the global church.
What they decided
• Retained the church's position regarding homosexuality.
• Decided not to divest from three companies whose products are used by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories.
• Did away with “guaranteed appointments” for clergy.
• Entered into full communion with a number of historically black pan-Methodist denominations.
• Approved making the United Methodist Women an autonomous organization rather than operating it under the church's missions agency.
• Created a national ministry plan for Pacific Islanders.
The delegates' response to two of the more prominent issues drew international attention.
Long said one of the issues that garnered widespread interest was the delegates' decision not to divest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Long said he argued successfully in favor of the move not to divest from Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.
“We felt that rather than divest from these corporations, we wanted to make sure we stayed at the table. Rather than taking sides, we want to promote peace,” Long said.
He said the issue was probably the “most lobbied piece of legislation” with prominent clergy like retired Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu speaking before the delegates to ask them to divest.