United Methodist Church members voted against allowing congregations to conduct same-sex weddings and hire openly LGBT+ clergy on Tuesday (February 26).
Delegates at the worldwide United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, then proceeded to vote in favour of a motion that would strengthen the church’s opposition to LGBT+ inclusivity, and encourage those that oppose it to leave the church, according to CNN.
The passage of the “Traditional Plan” reportedly means Methodist churches and clergy could be removed from the second-largest Protestant denomination in the US if they refuse to affirm their opposition to marriage equality and openly LGBT+ religious leaders by 2021.
Methodist Church’s rejection of LGBT+ equality sparks outrage
Methodists voted 449 to 374 to defeat an inclusive “One Church” proposal that would have allowed local congregations to decide on whether to allow same-sex weddings and LGBT+ clergy themselves. The Traditional Plan was backed by a vote of 438 to 384.
The result prompted tears and fury from queer activists at the conference, according to The Guardian.
Former Methodist pastor Rebecca Wilson said that she was feeling “devastation,” adding that, “as someone who left because I’m gay, I’m waiting for the church I love to stop bringing more hate.”
The Human Rights Campaign responded to the votes by emphasising that pro-LGBT+ campaigners would continue fighting for inclusion in the church, which has around 12.6 million members worldwide.
“It’s clear that LGBTQ Methodists and allies will continue to push for inclusion—not in spite of their faith, but because of it.”
— HRC Foundation’s acting senior vice president Jay Brown
“Countless LGBTQ Methodists, including young people and their families, are yearning for a welcoming church family,” said the HRC Foundation’s acting senior vice president Jay Brown.
“Unfortunately, today The United Methodist Church decided against taking meaningful steps that would include LGBTQ Methodists fully in the life of the church.
“However, despite this decision, it’s clear that LGBTQ Methodists and allies will continue to push for inclusion—not in spite of their faith, but because of it.
“We applaud the work of Reconciling Ministries Network and other LGBTQ Methodists and allies leading this charge.”
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Pro-LGBT Methodist group sends out message of hope
Late on Tuesday, the pro-LGBT+ Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) tweeted: “Despite the passage of the deeply unjust and painful Traditionalist Plan, we remain committed to justice, inclusion, and the full love of Christ for LGBTQIA+ people in The UMC.”
The group added that the Traditional Plan “was passed by the efforts of organised opponents to gospel inclusion who have funded and promoted the demise of Christian witness across denominations who have dared to call out a white nationalist strain of Christianity.”
In a statement of hope, RMN told its followers: “There may be a ‘traditional’ (divisive) plan, but by no means is our work abandoned.
We will gather soon to determine the next steps in our continued advocacy for LGBTQIA+ people in The UMC. There may be a “traditional” (divisive) plan, but by no means is our work abandoned. This is our Church. This is our Christ. This is our God.
— RMNetwork (@rmnetwork) February 27, 2019
“This is our Church. This is our Christ. This is our God.”
In a statement after the votes, prominent Bishop Scott Jones said the decision “resolves a long-standing debate about how we can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
He added: “Our views on same-sex marriage have not changed. We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth.”