Seizing the blessings of a rising stock market and unexpectedly plentiful reserve funds, the United Methodist General Conference approved millions of dollars for innovative programs serving overseas churches, ethnic groups in the U.S., young people, older adults, urban needs, ministries to the deaf, and even the production of cable TV spots to attract new members. But good feelings about expanding the mission of the 9.6-million member church (which includes 1.4 million members overseas) were dampened by a stormier-than-usual conflict over homosexuality. This year’s clash over how to regard gays and lesbians—it’s been on the agenda of these quadrennial meetings since 1972—may mark a watershed in the debate.
“The body is lacerated. . . . This issue is not going to go away,” said Linda Campbell-Marshall, a United Methodist district superintendent from Hope, Maine.