After opening with worship that reminded us of Paul’s words on the character of love (1 Corinthians 13), the Special Session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference considered nine resolutions. Eight resolutions passed with large majorities and one passed with simple majority vote. All resolutions were voted on through paper ballots so everyone could vote their conscience without hesitation. The day made clear that our Desert Southwest Annual Conference values unity. As one resolution stated, we “seek to remain together, united in our Wesleyan heritage.” It granted the bishop and conference leadership the authority to take whatever steps are necessary to preserve our unity. Groups and actions that have promoted division and schism were denounced.
Resolutions also made clear that a large majority of our conference understand that unity does not mean uniformity. The commitment by the majority to full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people was evident. A resolution was passed that “encourages all churches to follow a path that ensures the rights of all people to follow their hearts and live from the integrity of their faith,” Two resolutions were adopted that promoted the end of complaints against LGBTQIA+ clergy and those who officiate same-gender weddings. The Theological Statement drafted by the Way Forward Theology Team was adopted and is available at https://dscumc.org/2019/08/theological-statement-of-the-dsc-way-forward/ and an Executive Summary is available at https://dscumc.org/2019/08/executive-summary-of-the-theological-statement-of-the-dsc-way-forward/. The adoption of this Theological Statement passed with 88% of the votes. The resolution also “affirmed that the LGBTQIA+ community have all rights of full membership in our church.” Resolutions also passed that encourage changes in our global structure that would allow the United States or the Western Jurisdiction to be treated like a Central Conference which is able to adjust parts of the Book of Discipline to address cultural and regional differences.
While we hope, pray, and work for unity, resolutions were passed to prepare in the event a split becomes inevitable. The Way Forward Amicable Separation Team and Disaffiliation Team drafted resolutions that sought cooperation with the Western Jurisdiction, preparatory work in the 2020 General Conference, and that called us to operate in ways that are equitable, amicable, and honorable if separation becomes necessary. The full texts of the resolutions is available on the conference website, https://dscumc.org/annual-conference/ .
We ended the long day with worship singing together “Won’t you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.” May it be so.