Homosexuals Pessimistic About Church Granting Recognition
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Homosexuals seeking full recognition by the United Methodist Church predicted Wednesday that fear and stereotypes will prevail as the church takes up the issue at its quadrennial meeting.
″The delegates to the General Conference will use the language of faith when they talk about our living and our loving, but the odor in the air will be that of fear,″ said the Rev. Morris Floyd, a spokesman for Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian-Gay Rights, at a news conference.
Nearly 1,000 delegates are attending the two-week General Conference that began Monday and runs through May 6.
Language in church law that calls homosexuality ″incompatible with Christian teaching″ and says that ″self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church″ is scheduled to be debated Monday.
The United Methodist Church, with 9.6 million members, is the second- largest Protestant denomination in the United States. It also has members in Europe, Africa and the Philippines.
Affirmation spokeswoman Mary Gaddis, a lesbian, said she did not expect the church to grant equal status to homosexuals during the conference.
″The chances are zero in the next 10 days,″ she said. ″In 10 years - that’s a possibility.″
″Most Methodists, like most other people, think they don’t know anyone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual,″ said Floyd. ″The only information they have about us is based on myth and stereotype, with little more connection to reality than the racism-inspired image of ‘little black Sambo’ bears to black Americans.″
Church leaders have responded to such charges by saying that they are on record as insisting ″that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured.″
The church’s Book of Discipline, published in 1984, goes on to say, ″Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth who need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship.″
The move to delete the restrictive language from church doctrine has been opposed by several conservative groups, including Good News, an unofficial caucus that represents itself as the center of ″Scriptural Christianity″ in the denomination.
Good News argues that the Bible can be said without qualification to condemn sex among homosexuals.
Floyd was placed on involuntary leave of absence for several years by Bishop Jack Tuell of Los Angeles after Floyd acknowledged that he was homosexual. In 1984 Tuell agreed to appoint Floyd to his current job as executive director of a mental health center in Minneapolis serving lesbians and gay men.