Black Lives Matter Protest Disrupts General Conference


Members of the Black Lives Matter movement disrupt the May 16 proceedings of the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

By Walter Fenton-

More than 100 protesters interrupted the early afternoon session of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference. The demonstrators, many wearing rainbow stoles associated with the LGBTQ movement, wound their way through the bar of the conference chanting and singing.

Although the activists carried a Black Lives Matter banner, their litany of complaints included LGBTQ concerns as well. They chanted, “Black lives matter,” “Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia has got to go,” and “Love, not hate.” After parading around the floor of the General Conference they laid their protest banner on the altar table, and continued to sing, chant, and pound on the table.

Bishop Mike Coyner of the Indianapolis Episcopal Area was the presiding officer for the afternoon session. He was apparently aware of the impending protest. As the demonstrators began to proceed into the conference, he said, “Friends, … We have some folks who want to share their concerns, …if you would, please remain seated and listen attentively. I understand they have said they will pass through.”

Coyner made no attempt to keep the demonstrators from crossing the bar of the conference and actually bringing its business to a halt for approximately 20 minutes. Ironically, Coyner had just invited the delegates to weigh carefully the precious costs of time. He noted that each minute at General Conference costs the church almost $1,400.

After the protest, the demonstrators slowly filed out of the convention center, and Coyner reconvened the session. He explained to international delegates that Black Lives Matter “has a lot of concern about violence in our cities, including violence, as they perceive it, by police against black citizens.”

One activist remained behind, repeatedly yelling, “Coyner is a hypocrite,” as the bishop attempted to reconvene the session with a prayer.

The demonstrators appeared to make no specific demands during the protest. The Rev. Pamela Lightsey, who helped organize the march told the United Methodist News Service, “We are upset about the lack of voice The United Methodist Church has given against police force (toward) black and brown bodies across the U.S. … which says they do not intend to put the power of this huge denomination against this.” Lightsey is an associate dean at Boston University School of Theology and the first ordained black lesbian clergyperson in The United Methodist Church.

In an attempt to address the issues surrounding race and racism in the United States, United Methodism has made strong statements against racism, and it has made a concerted effort to include African-Americans at every level of its leadership structure. The denomination’s Committee on Religion and Race and its General Board of Church and Society make attempts to address ethnic and racial issues both inside and beyond the church.

The UM Church is also in full-communion with three historic and predominantly African-American denominations: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church-Zion, and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Full-communion means, among other things, that the denominations recognize one another’s clergy credentials, and join in the celebration of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism.

[You can watch a video of the protest here.]

Walter Fenton is a United Methodist clergyperson and analyst for Good News.


  1. Susan Beverly says

    I would have to agree with the protestors that Bishop Mike Coyner acted in a hypocritical manner. In that knowing the tremendous cost of General Conference under his watch and authority he allowed “Black Lives Matter” to protest through disrespectful and judgmental speech to the United Methodist Delegates. It is disrespectful for this group to assume those who disagree with the LGBTQ agenda are homophobic and guilty of hate–their chants are evident of their lack of respect for our orthodox Christian faith as well as their unwillingness to hear the doctrine and polity of the United Methodist Church . Further, the “Black Lives Matter” protest was confused–there was no stated objective other than to disrupt and make unfounded and unsupported allegations against the members and delegates of The United Methodist Church. The other blaring offense is that the spokesperson is named as the first Lesbian ordained as a United Methodist Clergywoman. That is a gross misrepresentation since at no time in the history of The United Methodist Church has the official ordination process allowed for the ordination of practicing homosexuals. This protest signals the intense need for every sphere of our United Methodist Church to be held accountable to our doctrine and polity that is already well-formed and in place in the Book of Discipline–the Scipturally sound covenant by which all Methodists have agreed to live and work together–especially presiding bishops and clergy.

    • You are so correct. There is no reasoning, just repetitious sound-bites thrown out over and over. I guess they think if they accuse us of hate and discrimination long enough, it will eventually stick. If the above is the actual quote of “Rev” Lightsey, it is incoherent. The amount of money lost in terms of apportionments equals roughly what our small church pays in a year and I know how hard we work and skimp to pay them.

    • Amen.

  2. Licensed Local Pastor says

    This was disappointing to watch. The LBGTQ supporters combining the issue of full inclusion with a group that professes hate. Wow what a chant, ” hey, hey, ho ,ho homophobia has got to go.” How can the Bishops allow this! The fact is that just because some of us in the UMC want to hold to what the scriptures clearly say that does not make us homophobic. This denomination is splitting apart from the top down, and this split will have eternal ramifications.

    • Licensed Local Pastor says

      This is a classic example of the following:


      1. DEFENDED
      2. FINANCED
      3. DENIED
      4. EXCUSED

      Your humble psychology professor, Marlin Newburn, M.A. LLP
      The Bishop’s are guilty of defending, denying, excusing and displacing responsibility for the actions of the so called progressive side of the UMC.

  3. Former UMC says

    ” We have some folks who want to share their concerns, …if you would, please remain seated and listen attentively. ”

    In the Holy Orthodox Church the phrase “let us attend” or “let us be attentive” is used exclusively for introducing the reading of the Holy Scriptures and for the Entrance at Great Vespers.

    For a bishop to afford such dignity to those whose purpose was to disrupt and discredit centuries of Christian teaching is despicable.

  4. Black Lives Matter is a group of maybe well intentioned African American GLBT people who do not know what that are about for African Americans. They know nothing of the African Union or even the actions of the President with the dept.of justice report on how manage in the 21st century the police. Protest after failure to negotiate your goals and failure is one thing. Ignorance is another. BLM has passed into ignorance of the mainstream Interests of the African American community, then again they never where as it was started from the beginning as a GLBT community. Our African Bishops have stated our position clearly and I am saddened to see members of the African American UMC family ignorant if their statement.

  5. I am sorry, is this a Denomination of Christians, or politicians? I do not believe in mixing politics in with any Church. I will pray that theses demonstrations are prayed for, because after all these are just DEMON- strations.


  1. […] more vociferous in the last few Conferences.  This year’s meeting was no exception.  There were protests that interrupted proceedings; more than 100 currently serving Methodist pastors announced they were openly homosexual; and […]

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