United Methodist Church reaffirms LGBTQ ban
The second largest denomination in the country, the United Methodist Church, voted recently to uphold and even strengthen its ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy in a controversial meeting.
During the church’s General Conference in St. Louis, 438 delegates from around the world ruled against 384 to reinforce a policy established in 1972 that declared homosexuality as being incompatible with Christian teaching.
This move is reported to alienate a large of number of LGBTQ followers and their allies in the church who have been pushing for reforms.
United Methodist Church: At the crossroads
The delegates had met on the Traditional Plan, the new policy that is supposed to serve as a policy for the United Methodist Church on LGBTQ clergy.
It would also address their inconsistent marriage practices among individual United Methodist churches, with some denouncing homosexuality and others allowing gay and lesbian clergy members.
The policy also includes penalties for those who break its rules, and would ask those who can’t obey to leave the church.
The delegates had likewise rejected the alternative One Church Plan, which would have allowed individual churches to decide on their own on same-sex marriages and gay and lesbian clergy members.
United Methodist Church: By the numbers
Presently, the United Methodist Church counts 12 million people as its members. Of this total, seven million are in the US.
In a 2014 Pew survey, 60 percent of US Methodists said homosexuality should be accepted by society whereas half of that total said they supported same-sex marriage.
Supporters of the Traditional Plan come from the evangelical members from Europe and the US, as well as African and Philippine members. Supporters of the One Church Plan were mainly from the US.
The Southern Baptist Convention– the largest Protestant denomination in the US– opposes same-sex marriage.
However, some US Protestant denominations allow gay marriage and clergy, like the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
What happens after the vote to LGBTQ members?
So what will happen next, especially for those groups who support gay marriage and clergy?
Many pastors and lay people in the denomination are debating on options, from moving on to staying. But they have until next month to learn if the gay and lesbian members will be kicked out.
The new rules will not go into effect until January next year, and the Methodist judiciary will still have to decide if the parts of the new rule are constitutional.
Bishop Karen Oliveto, who became the church’s first openly gay bishop, said of the vote: “The fact is there are LGBTQ people around the world serving in all levels of the United Methodist Church.”
“What stunned me was our failure to recognize that, to celebrate it and to say, we are stronger because of the faithful witness LGBTQ people have been giving for decades within the church,” the bishop told NPR.