The United Methodist Church says it will investigate irregularities over a vote to reject plans to become LGBT-inclusive.
In February, delegates at the worldwide United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, voted to reject a plan to adopt a more welcoming stance towards LGBT+ people.
However, the voting process itself has now been called into question over significant irregularities, after The New York Times alleged that ballots were cast by people associated with anti-LGBT churches who were not registered delegates at the event.
United Methodist Church ‘looking into’ voting irregularities in LGBT+ probe
In a statement, the United Methodist Church said it was “looking into a question that ineligible persons may have received credentials to vote,” and that “it appears possible that a very limited number of ineligible persons” were able to vote.
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, the president of the Council of Bishops, told the New York Times that the irregularities were “distressing and of great concern.”
CNN reports that the irregularities are likely not significant enough to have impacted the result of votes on LGBT+ issues, but figures within the church suggested the entire process had been brought into disrepute.
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Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton told the New York Times that church leaders were discussing whether new votes should be called, adding: “The findings that have come out have caused a serious impact on issues of trust and integrity about the whole process.”
Conference secretary Rev. Gary W. Graves said: “We take the integrity of the legislative process very seriously, and the breakdown in the process is troubling.
“The matter is being referred to the Commission on the General Conference.”
Methodists voted to reject pro-LGBT plan
Methodists voted by 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.
In a second 438 to 384 vote, Methodists backed a “Traditional Plan,” which rigidly enforces the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality and defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
The vote was condemned by LGBT+ campaigners.
Jay Brown of the HRC Foundation said: “Countless LGBTQ Methodists, including young people and their families, are yearning for a welcoming church family.
“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.