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United Methodist Church Faces Bitter Battle Over LGBTQ Equality

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Photo Credit: Hollywood United Methodist Church via Google Earth

The top policy making body of the United Methodist Church, (UMC) the General Conference, (GC), voted 438 to 384 to uphold the ban on LGBTQ clergy first enacted in 1984. Meeting last month in St. Louis, Missouri from February 23-26, delegates also voted to have UMC clergy refuse to conduct the marital rites for same-sex couples, which was first implemented in 1996.

Delegates also voted to ask the Judicial Council, the highest court in the UMC denomination, to review the constitutionality of those approved actions.

The GC called for church leadership to impose severe punishment for violations of doctrine as defined by the church’s Book of Discipline. The purpose was to act on a report from the church’s Commission on a Way Forward, which had been tasked to examine paragraphs in the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality specifically LGBTQ persons.

Following those sanctions the ‘Traditionalist’ factions voting to uphold what was referred to as The Traditional Plan, also added loyalty oaths that all UMC Conferences and bishops have to sign as well as provisos easing existing standards to prove someone is gay.

The One Church Plan, also advanced at the GC meeting and narrowly defeated, was “designed to almost create geographic- regional pockets of LGBTQ inclusiveness a source told the Los Angeles Blade, adding, “which would have made local Conferences and churches able to have say over their affairs on this subject.”

The Los Angeles Blade spoke with a GC attendee from Tennessee, who asked not to be identified, who took aim at the push by supporters of the One Church Plan to be more LGBTQ inclusive.

“The powers who run things [UMC] wanted to bring the homosexual issue to critical mass—they’re not hearing the truth that damn near every progressive member- same with traditional members— don’t want unity, not really. In other words, it appears that those with a financial stake want unity. Most of the rest of us want a church that reflects our values without compromise,” the source said.

“The schism among UMC members is deep and wide and growing. The Bible is clear on this—homosexuality is incompatible with Christian faith, teaching, and real belief.”

Dorothee Benz attended as a delegate from the New York Annual Conference.

“It’s true that nearly half of the UMC wanted LGBTQ people to be tossed out at the conference. Since 1972, there’s been a continuing ramping up of regulations and prohibitions against the LGBTQ community in general by church,” Benz told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Last month is the most extreme of those actions. But it is in keeping with the 51 year history of the UMC since 1968 and the Methodist Episcopal Church [19th/20th century predecessor] prior to that, with history regarding barley any opposition to slavery, its stance on women’s rights, being against civil rights for Blacks—so this a norm for the history of the church versus the exception.”

The conference was also wrought with controversy over allegations of improper voting, Benz noted, which “further marred the credibility of the outcome.”

“There were proven incidents of votes from people who were ineligible to vote. There must be a full investigation & full accountability of that needs to happen,” she said. “The integrity of the UMC is already under- scrutiny this shreds it further,” Benz said.

Scott Spencer, a Senior Pastor with the Mosaic United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, told the Los Angeles Blade that the results of the GC were devastating to not only his parishioners, but others in the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction, which includes most of the American West.

“There’s the bottom-line: this is about prejudice, people against people acting against people who are different. And they use the Bible to justify this, same as in past human history—women, Chinese, Blacks. Now its queer people, gay people,” he said.

Spencer added that, unlike groups or organizations fighting against LGBTQ equality rights that are transparent in their opposition, the UMC church has been deceptive.

“The only real difference between say the Westboro Baptist Church and the UMC is a casserole,” Spencer said, citing one of the more highly publicized infamous anti-LGBTQ groups in the country. “The UMC folks come with a smile, a casserole, and are deceptive with their message of ‘love.’ Never give in to underestimation of these people.”

A review of the UMC’s recent history on the subject of LGBTQ equality and efforts for greater inclusion by the Los Angeles Blade found that since 2011, there’s been a movement, a collective effort, to withdraw from discriminatory rules by nearly 1,000 plus UMC churches.

Spencer and Benz both pointed out that the 2016 GC held in Portland, Oregon, really became the flash point as many attendees, including queer clergy, organized to stand in defiance of the rules. Spencer noted that over 100 members of the clergy came out at that conference. At the end of Portland’s GC though, the issue was deferred, ultimately creating the foundations to the ST. Louis vote three years later.

Benz was blunt in her assessment of the impact of the St. Louis outcome.

“The most important takeaway from the GC is that the UMC is continuing to signal to LGBTQ people—especially queer youth— that their lives are not in line with doctrine and as a result are not acceptable. They are clearly stating that in their view, LGBTQ people are incompatible with Christian teachings,” Benz said. “This is no different than Westboro’s ‘I hate Fags’ in capital letters, just more insidious and low key.

“As the whole globe is reeling from white supremacy and bias, the UMC looks like it is standing with the Trump administration. ‘Empire over the Christ.’ Whether the church can survive this, I have no idea,” she added.

Ross Murray, a deacon of a Lutheran church whose calling, he says, is to do LGBTQ advocacy and is on staff at GLAAD, says that at least in the mainstream U.S. public’s perception, most of anti-LGBTQ efforts are led by the evangelical or Catholic faiths so other denominations often slip under public’s radar.

But he adds that there are also organizations like The Institute on Religion and Democracy, which has been active recruiting delegates in organizations like the UMC to oppose LGBTQ equality, and working for decades to impact anti- social justice. Ross noted also using language defining “homosexuality and gender identity as incompatible of Christian teachings.”

IRD is a Washington D.C. based American Christian conservative think tank is led by Mark Tooley, a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church as a layman and writer. He has vehemently opposed LGBTQ equality rights.

Ross also noted that roughly half of United Methodists support legal same-sex marriage, a fact backed up by data from the Pew Research Institute.

In California, many congregations long have operated in open defiance of the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

According to a recent article by the Los Angeles Times shortly after the General Conference vote, Bishop Grant Hagiya of the California-Pacific Annual Conference wrote in a statement that he was “deeply conflicted.”

“The question is, ‘Can I stay in a repressive and oppressive church with integrity?’” he wrote. “After a sleepless night, I came to a new resolve. I believe I must stay in the UMC and lead our people within the geographical context we find ourselves in the West.”

“Perhaps no United Methodist Church in California has championed making LGBTQ rights central to its mission more than Hollywood United Methodist,writes in the LA Times.

In 1993, in the midst of the AIDS crisis, the church put an enormous red ribbon on its English Gothic-style bell tower to support the afflicted. The congregation became largely LGBTQ and church attendance in recent years has thrived.

On a recent Sunday, a rainbow flag was draped over the altar. Senior Pastor Kathy Cooper Ledesma told worshipers that “our denomination … is going to need to repent. It’s going to need to address our complicity, our overly indulgent patience with the structural homophobia … that has been codified in the Book of Discipline.”

The congregation cheered when she declared: “I will continue to marry church members of the same gender in this sanctuary. Amen?”

 

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Los Angeles

IATSE and film studios reach a deal, strike averted

The new contract put a halt to what would have been the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history

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Graphic via IATSE

NEW YORK – Negotiators for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reached a deal Saturday averting a major production strike that would have crippled film and television production nationwide.

The new 3 year contract between the union representing the 60,000 rank and file behind-the-camera film and TV workers and the studios put a halt to what would have been the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history and the first major strike by crews since World War II.

Text of the press release announcement:

Important Update: Tentative Agreement Reached – Strike Averted
Late Saturday, President Matt Loeb and the 13 Hollywood Locals announced that the IATSE
has tentatively agreed to terms and conditions for the 2021 Basic and Videotape Agreements.
Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to
change the course of these negotiations. Our solidarity, at both the leadership and rank and
file level, was the primary reason that no local was left behind and every priority was
addressed. Because of you we realized:


• Living wage achieved
• Improved wages and working conditions for streaming
• Retroactive scale wage Increases of 3% annually
• Employer Funded Benefits for the term
• Increased meal period penalties including prevailing rate
• Daily Rest Periods of 10 hours without exclusions
• Weekend Rest Periods of 54 and 32 hours
• Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Holiday
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives
• 13th and 14th checks for pre-August 2009 retirees
• Additional MPI Hours for On-Call Employees
• Expansion of Sick Leave Benefit to the entire country

Your local will provide more detailed information over the next few days. The Memorandum
of Agreement will be available when drafting is completed. We are currently working out the
details of the electronic ratification process.

Your strike authorization vote, your preparation for a strike and your willingness to risk
your livelihood to fight for yourselves and each other has profoundly changed our union.
We thank you for your unwavering support.

In Solidarity,
Matthew D. Loeb
International President,
IATSE
Rebecca Rhine
National Executive Director,
IATSE Local 600
Rachael Stanley
Executive Director,
IATSE Local 892
Greg Reeves
Business Representative-Secretary,
IATSE Local 728
Adam West
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 705
Patric Abaravich
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 871
Cathy Repola
National Executive Director,
IATSE Local 700
Scott Bernard
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 695
Doug Boney
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 884
Thom Davis
Business Manager,
IATSE Local 80
Randy Sayer
Business Agent,
IATSE Local 706
Tobey Bays
Business Agent,
IATSE Local 44
Robert D. Denne
Business Representative/
Secretary-Treasurer,
IATSE Local 729
Chuck Parker
National Executive D

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Los Angeles

In time for holiday travel LAX opens new parking structure

The $294-million, 4,300 parking space structure is located a half mile away from LAX’s Central Terminal Area

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Mayor epic Garcetti and LAWA/LAX officials open new parking structure (Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles and LAX Airport)

LOS ANGELES – This week City Mayor Eric Garcetti celebrated the opening of the LAX Economy Parking, a new LAX parking faculty set to open Tuesday. The $294-million, 4,300 parking space structure is located a half mile away from LAX’s Central Terminal Area.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the City of Los Angeles department that owns and operates Los Angeles International (LAX) and Van Nuys (VNY) general aviation airports announced that there will be a dedicated shuttle bus to take travelers to the parking facility and the terminal area’s arrivals level.

Graphic courtesy of KTLA 5 and Los Angeles World Airports LAX

The four-story facility will have electric vehicle charging, automatic entry and exit, and allow drivers to pre-book parking online for a discounted rate. Initially, pre-booking discounts will give drivers up to 70% off the drive-up rate of $25 per day.

Previously, parking at LAX was only available on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservation system available.

For those travelers who have furry canine companions or service dogs, the airport authority noted the new LAX Economy Parking facility features a pet relief area.

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Los Angeles

60,000 Film & TV workers set to strike next Monday if no deal is reached

“What we learned from the pandemic is the employers can change the way they do business if it’s in their interest to do so”

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IATSE union workers prepare strike signs for walking the pickets (LA Blade photo montage)

NEW YORK – The president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union announced Wednesday that his union members will stage a strike at 12:01 AM PST next Monday unless a deal is reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the studios is reached.

“I am announcing that unless an agreement is reached, 60,000 @IATSE film and tv workers will begin a nationwide strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Monday, October 18 at 12:01 a.m., PDT, ” union head Matthew D. Loeb tweeted.

“We will continue bargaining with the producers this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement that addresses core issues, such as reasonable rest periods, meal breaks, and a living wage for those on the bottom of the wage scale,” Loeb said then added: “

However, the current pace of bargaining doesn’t reflect any sense of urgency. Without an end date, we could keep talking forever. @IATSE film and tv workers deserve to have their basic needs addressed NOW.”

A strike now would be catastrophic and would result in serious setback for an industry that had recently returned to work after long pandemic shutdowns and recurring aftershocks amid new outbreaks, the Associated Press noted.

“There are five whole days left to reach a deal,” said Jarryd Gonzales, a publicist for the group representing the studios said in a statement. “Studios will continue to negotiate in good faith in an effort to reach an agreement for a new contract that will keep the industry working.”

The Associated Press reported that if negotiations fail, it would be the first nationwide strike in the 128-year history of IATSE, whose members include cinematographers, camera operators, set designers, carpenters, hair and makeup artists, animators and many others.

Union members say they are forced to work excessive hours and are not given reasonable rest via meal breaks and sufficient time off between shifts. Leaders say the lowest paid crafts get unlivable wages. And streamers like Netflix, Apple and Amazon are allowed to pay even less under previous agreements that allowed them more flexibility when they were up-and-comers, the AP noted.

“We’ve continued to try and impress upon the employers the importance of our priorities, the fact that this is about human beings, and the working conditions are about dignity and health and safety at work,” said Rebecca Rhine, national executive director of the Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. “The health and safety issues, the unsafe hours, the not breaking for meals, those were the exception for many years in the industry, which is a tough industry. But what they’ve become is the norm.”

“Rank and file members are genuinely upset that the studios and the producers are intransigent in their positions and are not listening,” a person with IATSE Local 44 who has direct knowledge of the talks but not authorized to speak on the record told the Blade Wednesday evening. “A strike would cripple the economy here in LA especially,” they added.

“A strike is always difficult for everybody. Everybody suffers, it’s hard, but I believe that our members have the will and the resolve to do what’s necessary to be heard and to have their voices translated into actual change in the industry,” Rhine told the AP. “What we learned from the pandemic is the employers can change the way they do business if it’s in their interest to do so.”

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