By Bruce Pettit
California-Nevada News Service
FORT WORTH, April 23, 2008 – Bruce and Virginia Hilton, retired United Methodist pastors of the California-Nevada Annual Conference who died in the past year, were remembered today as the 2008 General Conference opened.
The Parents Reconciling Network, associated with the unofficial Reconciling Ministries Network of the United Methodist Church, was founded by the Hiltons in 1999, and they made PRN a force at the General Conference in Cleveland in 2000 with the now famous badges, "My Child Is of Sacred Worth." In several speeches at an RMN luncheon attended by more than 200 people today, the Hiltons (shown at left) were lifted up for providing a place within the national UMC community in which parents and families could tell their stories of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sons and daughters.
A Hilton award was established by PRN at the 2004 General Conference in Pittsburgh, and the Hiltons themselves were the first recipients. Today the honor went to Helen Brewer King of North Carolina, who stopped attending a church for a while after her daughter "came out." However, after reading Bruce Hilton's book, Can Homophobia Be Cured? King created the rainbow stoles that were prominent in Pittsburgh and that have been redesigned slightly for Fort Worth.
Retired Bishop Ray Chamberlain of the Holston Conference (in east Tennessee) commented to the RMN lunch crowd on the continuing language, since 1972, in The United Methodist Book of Discipline that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching." Citing no less a figure than the founder of Methodism, Bishop Chamberlain said that John Wesley was troubled by slavery in the 18th century, but noted that it was condoned in tradition, and even Scripture. But bringing the two other aspects of his quadrilateral into play – reason and experience – the "scales were tipped against Scripture" and Wesley became a strong anti-slavery advocate. Chamberlain said the day is coming when reason and experience will tip the scales also against Scripture and tradition informing the Discipline's "incompatibility."
The Rev. William Taylor, for 35 years a member of the Texas Annual Conference, told of his changed mind about the case for Scripture and tradition when his son Dawson came out as gay. William Taylor had supported the "incompatible" language "in the abstract" prior to that, he said.