aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Methodist shoptalk

Demographics is where it's at. Forty-one percent of the delegates to General Conference are from the four Central Conferences (two in Africa, one in the Philippines, one in Europe). They came prepared to be full participants, and it's rattling a lot of people's cages.

Now, the delegates from outside the USA are not all the same in their outlook on issues. The Europeans are no doubt more like the Americans than the Africans in their views on social issues. Africans and Filipinos aren't much of a muchness, either, and shouldn't be always lumped together. And, of course, none of these groups are monolithic voting blocs, even on issues they feel strongly about.

The big issue (at least, to some folks) is homosexuality. Here, the amendments that were proposed (again) to our Book of Discipline failed by a vote of 40%-60%. Let's take a look at that. I know of no way to accurately canvass the votes of delegates (nobody does exit polls), but I'm guessing that at least three-fourths of the Central Conference delegates voted against the amendments. Many Europeans probably voted for them, and some Africans and Filipinos (the most westernized) probably voted for them, too. So, let's say the split among Central Conferences was 10-30. That leaves 60% of the vote coming from the US, and the toal vote was 40-60. Which means the US was split almost right down the middle, about 30-30.

Last GC, there was an attempt to make the US a Central Conference and give each Central Conference the ability to write its own rules on certain things. You can bet your sweet bippy one of those "certain things" was going to be rules on gay marriage and ordination of homosexuals. In a dead-even split amongst Americans only, the chances that some day, somehow, the forces of (they call it) "progress" would eke out a victory are pretty good. That didn't happen; meanwhile, the numbers of Central Conference (especially, African) delegates keeps rising, since that part of the Church is growing, and our part is declining. For progressives, this is all terribly depressing. And it brings out a resentment, couched in muttered, old-fashioned racist code -- muttered by some of those who've made a career of chastising the rest of us for our supposed racism. It's ugly.

No doubt, as the number of African UMs increases and global connections among UMs also increase, the proportion of Africans voting against gay empowerment will decline, though I doubt by much (at least, in my lifetime). Of course, the efforts of conservative/evangelical/orthodox groups like the Confessing Movement to contest the elections the last two times out has made the American delegations more reflective of the UMs in the pews than would sending the usual suspects, as we used to do. So, as Africa grows gradually more liberal, there's nothing that says the American UMC might not grow more conservative. But that's all long-term. In the here and now, the Africans (and Filipinos) either saved the ship from sinking or hijacked it from its appointed course, depending upon whom you talk to.

Me, all I can say is,
As cold waters to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country. (Proverbs 25:25)

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