On the Floor of General Conference

Post Author: Rev. Kaleigh Corbett Rasmussen

This article is about the postponed 2020 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. While the conference voted to remove harmful, discriminatory language from the denomination's polity, description of the original homophobic language is included.

Never in my life did I ever imagine I’d be so excited about a consent calendar- a package of petitions that had fewer than 10 opposing votes in the legislative committee bundled into a single vote to save time. Sounds exciting, right? But there I was, on the floor of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church waiting to vote on A05 and wondering about the future of our denomination.

Consent calendar A05 contained a very important piece of legislation that had haunted me and other queer clergy for years. It would remove Paragraph 304.3 in The United Methodist Book of Discipline: “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” Homophobic language has been in the Discipline since 1972, and though since that same year people have striven to add affirming language in its place, our polity became more and more restrictive. This particular ordination ban was added to the Discipline in 1984, but even as recently as the special called 2019 General Conference, harmful, discriminatory language was retained and express punishments were added for anyone who stood up to the harm. 

Yet here we were, only five years later, looking not at a lengthy debate on the floor but at a consent calendar. Removing the ban on ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” passed overwhelmingly in the Ordained Ministry legislative subcommittee, allowing it to be on a consent calendar, and by some miracle, it hadn’t been pulled off to be discussed on the floor.  Typically consent calendars pass at an over 90 percent threshold, but this moment felt intense. It felt like we were on the brink of something holy. There would be no homophobic language surrounding this vote. I looked around at one of my fellow delegates and said to one of them, “Let’s do this. Let’s remove this harmful language.” 

I heard our first out lesbian Bishop Karen Oliveto say that she longed for the day she didn’t have to wake up wondering when her ordination would be taken from her. I know that is the feeling of so many of my queer siblings. I quietly came out in 2018, publicly in 2021 and am lucky to now serve in a conference and under bishops that have said they will not process complaints for queer clergy or those who perform same gender weddings, but there has always still been that underlying wonder. I have wondered if anyone has filed a charge against me, a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” proudly married to my wife, Leyna, and living as the queerfully beloved person God has created me to be. I have often wondered how long would we queer United Methodist clergy have to wait with this dark cloud hanging over us. It turned out, not much longer at all. 

I cast my vote on what looked like a repurposed blackberry, snapped a picture of it, and waited. Staring at the big screen for what seemed like an eternity, the vote results were posted. It passed by 93.14 percent (692 to 51). I gasped, looked around, heard more gasps as well as cheers and applause. This overwhelming rush of joy filled my body. I stood up, hugged my fellow delegates, shed a few tears and saw others doing the same. This moment would change the lives of so many queer clergy folks in the United Methodist Church. 

At the next break, we gathered to sing songs by amazing United Methodists like Mark Miller and Jorge Lockward. We hugged, we cried, we celebrated. The pictures from those moments captured the queer joy we all felt but also the lament. We lamented those who left, the ones whose shoulders we stood on but decided long ago they could no longer stay. We cried tears for them, and also tears of gratitude for all the queer youth and children in our generation and beyond who will be called to serve in The United Methodist Church. And in that moment, I knew that Jesus was there celebrating with us, much like in that powerful poem called Jesus at the Gay Bar by Jay Hulme


“He’s here in the midst of it – 

right at the centre of the dance floor, 

robes hitched up to His knees

to make it easy to spin. 


At some point in the evening

a boy will touch the hem of His robe 

and beg to be healed, beg to be

anything other than this; 


and He will reach His arms out, 

sweat-damp, and weary from dance. 

he’ll cup this boy’s face in His hand 

and say, 

        my beautiful child 

There is nothing in this heart of yours

That ever needs to be healed.”


Jesus was there on the floor of General Conference with us. Celebrating. Dancing. Embracing. Reminding us that indeed, this is the place for us, and our queerness doesn’t need to be healed. Yet in that moment, there was healing in ways my words have yet to describe. 

Queer delegates celebrate after removal of harmful language at General Conference.

Queer delegates celebrate after removal of harmful language at General Conference.

Note: The UMC General Conference removed all instances of harmful, discriminatory language against LGBTQ+ persons at the 2024 General Conference. This sets us back to neutral, and there is still more work to be done to fight for full inclusion and dismantle systems of injustice within our church.

Rev. Kaleigh Corbett Rasmussen (she/her) is a United Methodist clergywoman serving as the Associate Pastor at Niantic Community Church in Niantic, CT. She served as a delegate to the 2020/2024 United Methodist General Conference and is on the steering committee of the Queer Delegate Caucus. She lives and serves on the shoreline of CT with her wife, Leyna, and son, Jesse.

Image by: Corbin Payne
Used with permission
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