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From Previous Experience: Janet Ellinger

October 26, 2011
UNDER ARREST — United Methodist Bishops Susan Morrison (left, center) and Joseph Sprague are arrested by Cleveland Police after blocking a session of the denomination’s 2000 General Conference in protest of the church’s anti-homosexual policies. At right is Chip Aldridge. 27 were arrested and charged with disrupting a lawful meeting. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey Photo number gc2kK07, 5/11/00



Cleveland 2000. What a year!

The reading beforehand was overwhelming – and no, I did not read everything.
The days were long and my legislative section was demanding of time, spirit and
emotion. Some of the people I met were amazing. Others were disappointing. I
was honored to serve as a delegate – though it was a sobering insight into the
workings of the Church. How does the song go?…”and when we get behind
closed doors…” Reflections since 2000 has raised many questions in me
about the use of resources, the location of such gatherings and what seems to
me an inherent lack of stewardship in how this is carried out.

The event of Cleveland in 2000 that stands out for me personally has to be when
the General Conference arrested me, along with 27 others, as we stood on the
conference stage seeking to continue conversation rather than vote to continue
our exclusion of gay and lesbian persons from full participation in the life of
the United Methodist Church. With the ‘brightest and best” (supposedly) of
the denomination gathered together, all they could do was call in the Cleveland
police. In they came, onto the stage, escorting us to the paddy wagons,
whisking us off to jail, into the holding cell, fingerprinting us, patting us
down – and finally locking us up.

My chronic reflection has been, “What do I do with a Church that put me in
jail because of my faith?” I don’t have a “final answer.” And I
HAVE phoned many a friend.

When A.J. Muste stood outside the White House night after night with one small
candle, a single flame in the darkness, a reporter asked him, “You don’t
really think you are going to change the world by standing here with that one
candle do you?” Muste’s quiet reply came, “I don’t stand here to
change the world. I stand here so the world won’t change me.” Maybe that
was why – so the Church wouldn’t change me.


[Photo source:, 10/26/11]

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