Bishop Peggy Johnson will convene in May a one-time dialogue on the Religious Freedom Resolution (#2016–18; see the full resolution below), which was debated but not voted on at the 2016 Eastern PA Annual Conference. The resolution was committed to the bishop with a request for representative dialogue and a report in lieu of legislative action. The dialogue will take place at Asbury UMC in Allentown (1533 Springhouse Road), on Saturday, May 20, from 9 AM to 12 noon.
The resolution, offered jointly by a dozen churches, asks for the Eastern PA Annual Conference to formally denounce any attempts, in any state or jurisdiction, to pass laws that would “limit LGBT citizens’ freedom from discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation based on any individual’s, company’s or organization’s supposed right to ‘religious freedom…’” LGBT refers to persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. The resolution denounces “spurious use of the term ‘religious freedom’… because of the obviously discriminatory nature of such legislation.”
The request for dialogue was made in light of the 2016 General Conference’s earlier endorsement of a Council of Bishops Special Commission to examine homosexuality and church law. The Commission on a Way Forward began meeting in January and plans to make recommendations to a special session of General Conference in 2019. Annual Conference members asked for the commission’s deliberations to be considered as part of the dialogue.
Bishop Johnson intends to present a requested report on the dialogue at the 2017 Annual Conference, June 15-17. Although significant gleanings from the Commission on a Way Forward are unlikely, since its work will be at an early stage, the outcome of the Eastern PA Conference dialogue on discriminatory religious freedom laws may be helpful to the Special Commission.
Bishop Johnson is offering several reading resources to the conference in preparation for the dialogue. She encourages those who plan to attend to read and use these publications, available on our website, as guidelines for their participation:
Photo: Members of the UMC Special Commission on a Way Forward. See “Commission on a Way Forward: Members” for the list of members.
Religious Freedom Resolution, #2016–18.