998 Delegates and over 1,000 Onlookers at the UMC General Conference

( [email protected] ) Apr 28, 2004 07:54 AM EDT

Exactly 998 United Methodist delegates registered and came to the quadrennial United Methodist Church (UMC) General Conference in Pittsburgh. These delegates represent the top policy-making body of the UMC - the second largest denomination in the United States with over 8 million adherents in the States alone.

In addition to the delegates, over 1,000 onlookers attended the first day, April 27, to watch the opening ceremony. These attendees filled one of the exhibition halls of Pittsburgh Convention Center and opened the 2-week conference with a multi-lingual choral devotion, sermons and prayer.

While the body will now begin voting on over 1,500 legislations to the UMC, the focus has undoubtedly been on the church's stance on homosexuality and ordination of homosexual individuals. Current law dictates that while homosexuals are persons of sacred worth, openly avowed and practicing homosexuals may not serve as clergy. The conservative and liberal factions in the UMC have been battling over this issue since the 1988 conference. However, with the controversial Karen Dammann trial verdict at hand where an openly avowed, practicing lesbian pastor was deemed 'not guilty' of violating church law, the results of this conference will be one of the most critical in the history of the denomination.