Delegates at the UMC conference (Pic: Facebook)
In a deeply disappointing move, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has chosen to affirm its opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
The decision was taken at the Special Session of the church’s General Conference in St Louis, in the US, attended by delegates from all over the world; half lay, half clergy.
They voted 438 to 384 on Tuesday to support the “Traditional Plan,” which affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and Methodist ministers officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.
The Traditional Plan also streamlines the processes to enforce penalties for violations related to marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons. The UMC’s Book of Discipline states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
After the vote was concluded, supporters of the conservative restrictions broke out in song while others were in tears and chanted in protest against the regressive decision.
Former Methodist pastor Rebecca Wilson of Detroit told The Guardian she felt “devastation” at the outcome of the vote. “As someone who left because I’m gay, I’m waiting for the church I love to stop bringing more hate,” she said.
The UMC has more than 12 million members around the world, with around half in the US; making it the second-largest Protestant denomination in that country.
“We continue to teach and believe that all persons are welcomed in the church, all persons are persons of sacred worth and we welcome all to receive the ministry of Jesus,” said Bishop Ken Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, after the conference ended.
“Human sexuality is a topic on which people of faith have differing views. Despite our differences, we will continue to work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and share God’s love with all people.”
The vote was met with frustration by LGBTQ groups and supporters of inclusion.
South Africa’s Inclusive & Affirming Ministries (IAM) said that it was nevertheless “encouraged by the small margin” by which conservatives won the vote. “We will continue to pray for the United Methodist Church as they need to prepare for a new future. We recognise those who have worked tirelessly for the inclusion of all God’s people,” IAM commented on Facebook.
“Countless LGBTQ Methodists, including young people and their families, are yearning for a welcoming church family,” said Jay Brown, Acting Senior Vice President of America’s HRC Foundation. “Unfortunately, today The United Methodist Church decided against taking meaningful steps that would include LGBTQ Methodists fully in the life of the church.”