The United Methodist General Conference ended Saturday with denomination leaders saying delegates were satisfied with the handling of some potentially divisive issues on theology and social policy.
Liberals and conservatives reached compromises on issues that included gender-free language, homosexuality and abortion, at the conference attended by 996 delegates at the Cervantes Convention Center.The delegates gave the 9.1 million-member church a new hymnal and worship book, provided a fresh formulation of doctrine and theology to digest and launched the denomination's first-ever university in Africa.
Policy statements were developed on some of the major domestic and international issues of this decade - among them the rural crisis, genetic science, AIDS, intervention in other nations and the global economy.
"I feel good about the tone of the conference, the theological statement and the new hymnal, said Rev. William Hinson of Houston. "In our ritual, we have reaffirmed the historic trinity, in our Social Prinicples we have it clear that we can never accept abortion as a form of birth control."
The new hymnal downplays masculine imagery in references to God and believers that was a key liberal agenda item. However, masculine references to God in 35 of the 113 psalms were retained as a conservative concession.
The church stood fast against homosexuality, defining it as "incompatible with Christian tradition" and reaffirming a ban on ordaining homosexuals. But a major study on homosexuals - to be based on research by scientists, ethicists and theologians - will be undertaken as a concession to liberals.
The delegates endorsed a turn to the right in theology, defining Methodism, the nation's second largest Protestant body, as a denomination that wants to stress the Bible over pluralism while endorsing "diversity."