At the Annual Conference session, a document called Covenant to Do No Harm was introduced. It is similar to documents from other annual conferences, and it is based on the call of Bishop Talbert to obey the gospel rather than the Book of Discipline. The key sentence is “Therefore, we choose to be obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ even when that means we may be in non-compliance with the Book of Discipline.” The covenant was signed by large numbers of clergy and lay people at the conference session.
You can download the covenant here and circulate it at your church for signatures. The signature sheets can be returned to our chapter by mail at the address at the bottom of the sheet. Although signing does not bind the signer to any specific action, it is an important step to show support throughout the church.
The 2012 Annual Conference session passed two pieces of legislation submitted in the aftermath of General Conference. One, submitted by our chapter leadership, is a standing resolution which declares “the sense of the conference” in agreement with Bishop Talbert’s statement that the discriminatory parts of the Book of Discipline no longer deserve our obedience. It was amended on the floor of the conference to say that “we are of divided mind”, but the petition passed easily by the required 2/3 margin.
The other action was submitted by the Reconciling United Methodists. It also passed by a large margin. It is now the recommendation of the conference that all churches adopt a statement of welcome that specifically includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Since these actions were submitted after the the normal deadline in March, there was not an opportunity for them to go through the normal process before they came to the floor. There were some complaints about the process, since the whole conference did not see them until they were presented for debate and vote. For the future, there seems to be a need for the conference leadership to give more thought to how late petitions are handled.