Reflections from the oklahoma annual conference

Dear friends at St. Stephen’s UMC!

Last week was our 2024 Oklahoma United Methodist Annual Conference in OKC, and it was great to be in fellowship with United Methodists from across the state. Annual Conference affords us the time to meet with old friends, to gather for fellowship and to rekindle the joy of our connectional system. I want to thank our four lay delegates for their hard work and attendance at this year’s AC. So big shout out to Kay Antinoro, Rachel McDanel, Amber Moore and Luke Richardson-Walker for their presences at AC and their presentation on Sunday morning.

I did want to address one situation that came up at AC so that there is no confusion. On the last day of AC, the Oklahoma United Methodist Board of Church and Society put forth a resolution affirming the LGBTQIA community (which I have a copy of if you would like to see it). The general theme of the resolution would call for Oklahoma United Methodists to affirm, support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and that as an Annual Conference we confess and re-pent for our role in marginalizing the other in our midst. There was a great deal of discussion and a great deal of passion both for and against the resolution. In the end the decision was made to wait one year and send the resolution back to Church and Society for revision. This of course was disappointing for many of us in the room and left us with a somewhat hollow feeling about this year’s annual conference.

However, I want to say a few things so as to one reaffirm us as a people that the church is moving forward and also to address some confusion around the resolution and its implications on the local church. First while we are disappointed that the resolution did not pass it is important to note that it did not fail either. The resolution instead of being defeated was returned to committee and will be addressed again at the 2025 Annual Conference. In addition, the decision to return it to committee was very close, close enough that we had to do hand vote twice to be sure. So that shows how far we have come, as one of our youth delegates Rachel McDanel pointed out, just a year ago the resolution would have been easily defeated. And I think we can celebrate the fact that the resolution is continuing to be debated.

The second thing I want to do is to clear up any confusion about this resolution and its implications for the local church. This failure of this resolution to be passed at this year’s Annual Conference has absolutely NO bearing on the decisions made last month at the 2024 General Conference in Charlottesville. The removal of all prohibitive language within the Book of Discipline regarding bans on Gay Marriage and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals has been removed from the Book of Discipline and will remain as such. 

The resolution as put forth by the Board of Church and Society’s failure to receive approval has absolutely no bearing on how we as a church will conduct our ministry here at St. Stephen’s. St. Stephen’s UMC has been and shall continue to be a place of safety, affirmation and love towards our LGBTQ+ siblings. I know that we are disappointed that the resolution did not pass but we here will remain optimistic and hopeful that as we continue to tell our story, other churches, laity and clergy will feel their hearts stirred and their minds opened as we move towards 2025.