gay lobby.rnAn angr’ rally by the Methodist Federationrnfor Social Action, the church’s oldestrnliberal caucus group, featmed thernRev. James Lawson, a retired Methodistrncleric and one-time colleague of MartinrnLuther King, Jr. (Lawson organized thern1968 Memphis garbage collector’s strike,rnwhich summoned King to his impendingrnassassination in that city.)rnStill a fiery orator, Lawson excoriatedrnthe conservatives who are taking o’er hisrndenomination. “They are not interestedrnin serving Jesus Christ. They are interestedrnin the management and control of thernUnited Methodist Church.” The crowdrnof over 500 roared its approval when ReverendrnLawson announced; ‘They are notrnvoices of God but voices of white privilege,rngreed, capitalism, racism, wrongrnand American domination of the rest ofrnthe world.”rnReverend Lawson lambasted Methodistrnconservatives as part of tiie “right-vingrnideological junk of America” who are seducingrnthe church with their mone’ andrnsupposed media savvv, “We will makernthe church unmanageable until thernchurch decides it will ser e Cod and notrnAmerica,” Lawson warned. He was laterrnarrested during the carefnllv choreographedrnacts of civil disobedience thatrnfailed to alter the outcome of the generalrnconference.rnIf pro-gay bishops were outspoken,rnmoderate bishops were reticent aboutrntheir personal views on sexuality. The exceptionrnwas Bishop Arthur Kulah ofrnLiberia, who preached against homosexualrnpractice in a sermon to the conference.rnIn later remarks to a black clergyrnassociation, Kulah explained that, as arnchild, he was raised by two mothers in hisrnpolygamous culture. Then tiie missionariesrncame, teaching that marriage is betweenrnone man and one woman. Now,rnsome argue that marriage can be betweenrnone man and one man, or onernwoman and one woman. The Africanrnchurch will not accept that, Kulah insisted.rnChurch liberals, who like to representrnthemselves as spokespersons for the “oppressed”rnThird World, were unable to explainrnwhy their most forceful opponentsrnon issues involving sexualit)’ were delegatesrnfrom Africa, Asia, and Latin America.rnThey also seemed unprepared for therndecisive vote against partial-birth abortion,rnwhich carried 70 percent of the delegates.rnThe United Methodist Churchrnhelped found the Religious Coalition forrnAbortion Rights almost 30 vears ago, andrnthe vote was the first condemnation of anrnabortion procedure bv the denominationrnsince Roe v. Wade. Only four years ago.rnUnited Methodist officials supportedrnPresident Clinton’s veto of legislationrnthat would have banned partial-birthrnabortion.rnJust as surprising was the election ofrnthe president of a private evangelicalrnseminary to the Universih’ Senate, whichrnoversees the church’s official seminariesrnand has been the traditional preserve ofrnliberal academics. But United Methodistsrnwere not yet w illing to give up on thernnearly comatose National and WorldrnCouncils of Churches. Still, their vote tornseek observer status in the National Associationrnof Evangelicals and the WorldrnEvangelical Fellowship was a move thatrnno one would have predicted even a fewrnyears ago.rnLiberals still won victories: Capitalrnpunishment was denovmeed; gun controlrnwas extolled; the U.S. Navy presencernin Puerto Rico was condemned; therernwas a call for a “Jubilee” cancellation ofrnThird World debt and demands that thernU.S. Army close its School of the Americas,rna training center for Latin Americanrnmilitary officers. Conservatives savedrntheir ammunition for more crucial battlesrnover sex, church polit)’, and theolog)’.rnThe conference was rife witii symbolism.rnLiberals were led by the Rev. J.rnPhilip Wogaman, pastor to Bill andrnHillar)’ Clinton at Washington’s FoundryrnUnited Methodist Church. A formerrnseminary professor now in his late 60’srnwho was probablv attending his final generalrnconference before retirement. ReverendrnWogaman pleaded for the delegatesrnto compromise on homosexuality;rn”Again and again wc have learned as arnchurch tiiat we were wrong about women,rnabout slaves, about racial minorifies,rnabout monarchy, about feudalism. Willrnwe one day have to hold a service of repentancernfor our gay and lesbian sistersrnand brothers?”rnHe was defeated in the election forrnchairman of the legislative committeernthat handles sexual ih’ issues by a dynamicrnblack pastor from Houston who respondedrntiiat there could be no compromisernon homosexuality in the church’srnrule book, known as “The Discipline.”rn”There is indeed a discipline that is higherrnand greater than tiie one that is madernfor United Methodists,” said the Rev.rnRobert Hayes. “It is the Word of God asrnprinted in the Holy Scriptures and it is tornthat discipline that we must be faithful.”rnAt Reverend Hayes’ urging, the delegatesrnrepeatedly rejected any effort at compromisernon homosexuality’, decisively reaffirmingrntraditional church teachings onrnmarriage and sexuality by a margin largerrnthan four years ago. Newspaper accountsrnreported the votes with some surprise.rnThe 20th century began witii a Methodistrnpresident, William McKinley, whornwas converted in tiie great revivals beforernthe Civil War. The century is endingrnwith a President and First Lady who wererndrawn to Methodism because of the liberalrnvision of social justice espoused bvrnPastor Wogaman and other church leaders.rnThe 21st century could begin withrnanother Methodist president, George W.rnBush, whose conversion and evangelicalrnfaith are more reminiscent of McKinleyrnthan the Clintons.rnWhoever is elected ‘this fall, Methodism’srnera of liberal dominance is drawingrnto a close. Its potential replacement by arnmore conservative understanding ofrnChristianit}’ is not just a religious storyrnbut a national one; Methodist revivalismrnforged the character of fronfier America,rnand Methodism’s accommodation ofrnmodernit}’ helped shape the 20th century.rnMethodism’s return to the Christianrnmainstream could transform America nornless profoundly in the years ahead.rnMark Tooley is a research associate at thernInstitute on Rehgion and Democracy inrnWashinEton, D.C.rnA Killing Privacyrnby Thomas FlemingrnA bortion is not something to discussrnin polite companv. Unlike a good,rnclean murder committed from naturalrnmotives such as revenge, envy, and greed,rnaborfion is something slimy, more like arnsex crime. Many parents must be tempted,rnfrom time to time, to commit mayhemrnupon their offspring. Such feelingsrnare natural; but women who have abortionsrnare killing their babies so that theyrncan have more sex. As murderesses, theyrnare no more reprehensible than womenrnwho smother their crying babies in therncrib, but they are a lot more disgusting.rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn