United Methodists overturn long-standing prohibition on LGBTQ clergy

In a significant move, United Methodist delegates in Charlotte, N.C. have made the decision to repeal their church’s long-standing ban on LGBTQ clergy. Without any debate, they have voted to remove the rule that previously forbade the ordination or appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” as ministers. This marks a historic moment for the United Methodist Church and represents a step towards greater inclusivity within the denomination.

At the General Conference, delegates casted their votes in a resounding 692-51 decision. This legislative gathering, the first in five years, marked a significant shift from the decades-long turmoil surrounding the issue. Previous General Conferences of the United Methodist Church had consistently upheld the ban and its associated consequences amidst heated debates and protests. However, the denomination has witnessed a departure of many conservative members in recent years, leading this General Conference to embrace a firmly progressive stance.

There was a burst of applause in certain sections of the convention hall on Wednesday following the vote. A number of individuals from LGBTQ advocacy groups came together and embraced, with some shedding tears of joy. One person expressed their gratitude, saying, “Thanks be to God.”

The recent change in the United Methodist Church does not require or explicitly endorse LGBTQ clergy, but it signifies a significant shift from the previous prohibition. It is worth noting that this change may primarily impact U.S. churches, as United Methodist bodies in other countries, like in Africa, have the authority to establish their own regulations. The new measure takes effect immediately following the conclusion of the General Conference, set to conclude on Friday.

The United Methodists have made a historic decision to repeal their long-standing ban on LGBTQ clergy. In a move that marks a significant shift in the church’s stance on LGBTQ inclusion, delegates at the denomination’s General Conference voted to remove language from the Methodist Book of Discipline that deemed “the practice of homosexuality” incompatible with Christian teaching.

This decision comes after years of debate and division within the church over LGBTQ rights. The United Methodist Church, which has around 13 million members worldwide, has been deeply divided on issues related to homosexuality, with some advocating for greater inclusivity and others holding firm to traditional beliefs.

The vote to repeal the ban on LGBTQ clergy was not without controversy. However, proponents of the change argued that it was necessary to ensure that the church remains relevant and inclusive in today’s society. They emphasized the importance of recognizing the gifts and callings of LGBTQ individuals within the church and affirming their place in leadership positions.

Some United Methodist leaders expressed hope that the decision would bring healing and unity to the church, which has been grappling with internal divisions for years. However, others fear that the decision could lead to further schism within the denomination, with conservative congregations and clergy considering leaving the church over the issue.

Despite the potential for further division, many see this decision as a significant step forward for LGBTQ rights within the United Methodist Church. It reflects a growing trend among mainstream Christian denominations towards greater acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ individuals.

The repeal of the ban on LGBTQ clergy is not the end of the conversation within the United Methodist Church. The denomination will continue to grapple with issues surrounding LGBTQ inclusion, including same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ individuals. However, the decision to lift the ban marks a significant milestone in the church’s journey towards greater inclusivity and equality.

The overwhelming consensus led to the inclusion of this measure in a “consent calendar,” which typically consists of non-controversial measures.

“It appeared to be a seemingly straightforward vote, but its significance was immense, as it marked the lifting of 50 years of limitations on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in people’s lives,” expressed Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is recognized as the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church.

According to Oliveto, from the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area covering Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming, individuals can embrace their calling without any fear. She expresses her gratitude towards the church for providing a sense of belonging.

A new measure has been approved, which prohibits district superintendents or regional administrators from penalizing clergy for conducting same-sex weddings or for choosing not to perform them. Additionally, superintendents are now forbidden from requiring or prohibiting churches from hosting same-sex weddings.

Delegates took steps on Tuesday to further remove scaffolding around the various LGBTQ bans that have been embedded in official church law and policy.

Delegates will soon vote on the decision to replace the current official Social Principles with a new document. This new document removes the statement that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and redefines marriage as between “two people of faith” instead of just a man and a woman.

The General Conferences of the denomination have been a platform for debating LGBTQ issues for over 50 years. However, on Tuesday, delegates made historic changes by voting to eliminate mandatory penalties for conducting same-sex marriages. They also decided to remove the bans on considering LGBTQ candidates for ministry and funding for gay-friendly ministries within their denomination. These changes mark a significant shift in the denomination’s stance on LGBTQ matters.

About 100 LGBTQ individuals and their supporters came together outside the Charlotte Convention Center following the vote. The crowd was filled with vibrant rainbow-colored scarves and umbrellas, creating a beautiful display of unity. They gathered to celebrate, offer prayers, and sing uplifting praise songs while being accompanied by the rhythmic beats of a drum.

Angie Cox, a participant from Ohio, expressed her experience at the meeting where she had to approach her conference’s board of ordained ministry multiple times. However, she was repeatedly denied due to the prohibition on LGBTQ clergy. Reflecting on the recent vote, Cox feels hopeful and believes that she may finally be able to fully embrace her calling.

Tracy Merrick, a passionate delegate from Pittsburgh who has been advocating for LGBTQ inclusion at numerous previous conferences, expressed deep emotion as she shared her thoughts on the vote. She believes that this decision will pave the way for the church to finally become the denomination that many of them have been envisioning for years.

Between 2019 and 2023, over 7,600 American congregations, which accounted for a quarter of all UMC congregations in the U.S., departed from the denomination. This significant exodus was a direct result of conservative dissatisfaction with the UMC’s failure to enforce its prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. It is worth noting that these disaffiliations occurred within a specific time frame, during which congregations were allowed to retain their properties under favorable conditions.

The conference officially decided to close the window on Wednesday, despite the appeals of conservatives who were advocating for an extension. This decision was made, particularly because the initial window only applied to churches in the United States and not internationally.

Rev. Jerry Kulah, a delegate from Liberia, expressed his concern about limiting the function of the United Methodist Church to only the United States. According to him, this would be detrimental to the church in Africa.

Dixie Brewster, a delegate from the Great Plains Conference representing Kansas and Nebraska, expressed her desire for a peaceful and inclusive disaffiliation process for fellow conservatives. She emphasized the importance of creating a space where they can peacefully transition without causing disruptions. Dixie also highlighted her love for all individuals, including her homosexual friends, while acknowledging her differing interpretation of the Scriptures.

However, some individuals argued that the process of disaffiliation in recent years has caused significant division within congregations and families.

Delegate Lonnie Chafin from Northern Illinois expressed the need to shift the focus away from voices of distrust.

There are alternative methods for congregations and entire conferences to disaffiliate, as highlighted by some individuals. They mentioned that the General Conference recently authorized the departure of certain churches in the former Soviet Union. However, there are differing opinions on whether this process is excessively demanding.

This week’s votes might lead to the departure of certain international churches, particularly in Africa. In this region, more conservative sexual values are predominant, and same-sex activity is considered a criminal offense in some countries.

The conference last week approved a regionalization plan that grants the churches in the United States the same level of independence as other regions in the global church. This potential change, pending local ratification, could result in a situation where LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage are permitted in the United States while being prohibited in other regions.

The denomination, which was once the third largest in the United States and had a presence in almost every county, is expected to see a decline in its 5.4 million U.S. membership in 2022 due to the anticipated departures in 2023.

The denomination also has a membership of 4.6 million in other countries, predominantly in Africa, although previous estimates had been higher.

Reference Article

Avatar photo
MBS Staff
Articles: 6843

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *