The United Methodist Church and Homosexuality
Decisions by church conferences
and courts from the year 2000 to 2009
Every four years, a General Conference of Methodist churches from around the world is
held. Modifications of their Book of Discipline are often considered at that conference. This book contains the law and doctrine of the denomination.
||Year 2000: The General Conference was held
from MAY-2 to 12 in Cleveland OH. Ironically, the conference theme
was: "We Who Are Many Are One Body." Attitudes towards equal rights for gays and lesbians seem to have
hardened. Two weeks previously, charges were laid against Melfin Talbert, a bishop in California. He said that policies in local
Methodist churches that foster "inclusiveness and justice"
take priority over national church law.
On MAY-8, a resolution was rejected 705 to 210 that would have
required a loyalty oath of any minister assigned to a congregation:
"I do not believe that homosexuality is God's perfect will for
any person. I will not practice it. I will not promote it. I will not
allow its promotion to be encouraged under my authority."
The delegates passed a resolution reaffirming their belief that homosexual
behavior is incompatible with Christian teaching (the vote was 628 to
337). A compromise proposal to replace this statement with one stating
that: "Many consider this practice incompatible with Christian
teaching. Others believe it acceptable when practiced in a context of
human covenantal faithfulness," was defeated 585 to 376. This
is a 61% majority. A demonstration in support of equal rights for gays
which had been peaceful, started singing the civil rights anthem
"We Shall Overcome," and marched onto the stage.
Randy Miller of San Francisco asked and was granted permission to
address the delegates. He said:
"We have broken covenant
because this church has broken covenant with us. We were baptized in
this church, and grew up in your Sunday schools [only to be excluded
as gay and lesbian adults.] The covenant is already broken. We take it
as an act of conscience to be forcibly removed from here."
About 27 demonstrators were peacefully arrested, including two bishops
and at least three ministers. Some delegates and visitors chanted
Two other resolutions were passed. These repeated decisions of
earlier conferences: that sexually active
gays and lesbians cannot be ordained (640-317), and that UMC ministers may not
conduct "ceremonies that celebrate homosexual union."
(646 - 294) This is a majority of 69%, compared with a majority of 63%
on a similar resolution at the 1996 convention. A proposal to
modify the language so that violations would not be prosecuted was
Rev. Mel White, director of Soulforce
gay-straight alliance said: "We think the Holy Spirit has left
the United Methodist Church as a denomination. God is for justice, and
when you exclude people from a congregation, God goes out the door
with the outcasts."
Some UMC members are suggesting a schism in the denomination. Rev.
James Heidenger, editor of the conservative Good News magazine
commented: "Is an amicable departure a better option than
continuing to tear away at the fabric of our denomination?...We are
pained at their pain, and we don't want to be unloving in our
response. But I'm not sure I see a middle ground here."
||2004: The General Conference was scheduled for APR-27
to MAY-7 in Pittsburgh, PA.
||The race question: On APR-30, the delegates to the
Conference noted that African-Americans "were part of the church
when Methodism began, but often have been denied full participation
because of racism....Delegates confessed to the sin of racism in the
denomination." Bishop Charlene Kammerer of Charlotte NC
delivered a sermon which thanked the generations of black Methodists
who stayed in an institution that excluded them. "For all those
faithful, courageous black Methodists who stayed in an inhospitable
place and abusive church, we say 'Thank you, God.' Those of us in
the white majority confess that we have sinned against you and
against God who made us all one family. We have excluded you from
our sanctuaries, schools, colleges, our public domains, our
neighborhoods, our homes and, worst of all, our hearts. For that, we
are truly sorry." 6
If current trends continue and an increasing percentage of the
public accepts homosexuality as a normal and natural sexual
orientation, it is likely that similar apologies will appear in a
future Conference, directed to gays and lesbians.
||Acceptance of homosexuality:
One representative each from the South Carolina and Mississippi
Annual Conferences submitted a petition to prohibit the funding of
any group which promotes the acceptance of homosexuality. The
Financial Administration committee voted to recommend the petition
by the narrowest margin possible: 37 for, 36 against, 21 abstentions. The
petition added a new section 19 to the existing paragraph 611
of the 2000 Book of Discipline:
"19.To ensure that no
annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council
shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or
otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of
homosexuality. The council shall have the right to stop such
expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church's
ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude
funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church's
official position is fairly and equally represented."
On 2004-MAY-01, delegates voted in favor of the petition by 497 to 418.
||2006:The Minnesota Annual Conference of
the United Methodist Church passed nine petitions related to
homosexuality. Victoria Rebeck, communications director for the
Conference said: "The biggest news is that we had a good, respectful
discussion of these very emotional issues and people really listened to
each other." The closest vote was a real squeaker: 358 to 356. It
involved a petition to change the definition of marriage from "a man
and a woman" to "two adult persons," and to delete a sentence
supporting laws that define marriage as between a man and woman. The
resolutions will be passed on to the 2008 General Conference.|
||Bishop Sally Dyck said that delegates approached the issues "as
Christians in the best sense of that word - loving and humble,
trying to be careful with each other."
||The Rev. Carl Caskey of Northfield, said, "We think the
future is with us [in the push for greater acceptance of gays
and lesbians]. Many of us are greatly concerned about the
direction the (denomination) has taken toward exclusion. We'll keep
putting the pressure on."
||The Rev. Phil Strom of Elk River United Methodist Church who
believes that homosexual behavior is inherently sinful said
that both sides "feel grief and sadness, because the vote reminds
us of how deep this division is, how irreconcilable."
||The Rev. Dan Johnson of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church
in Edina said, "The half-dozen biblical references to
homosexuality do not reflect what we understand today about loving
relationships. This is an identity, not a sin."
||The Rev. Daren Flinck of Grace United Methodist in Fergus Falls
said he "suddenly feels like an alien in my own land." 8
2008: The General Conference was held in late April and
early May in Fort Worth, TX. On 2008-MAR-30, the delegates rejected still
another motion to delete the denomination's policy that homosexual behavior
conflicts with Christian teaching. Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of Northaven
United Methodist Church in Dallas, said: "It was a terrible day. ...
American Methodists are ready for change." However, change appears
to have been prevented this time by the votes of international delegates,
particularly those from Africa, whose numbers and influence have grown because
of the growth of the denomination outside of the U.S.
Faye Short, president
of Renewal Network, a group of conservative evangelical UMC women commented: "If
that ever changes, it's probably the death knell for the church. I don't think
it would hold together."
About 300 people held a protest demonstration that interrupted proceedings for
about 15 minutes. Unlike the year 2000 convention when 2,000 civil rights
supporters were arrested, this demonstration proceeded peacefully. 9
||2009-MAY-02: The United Methodist
Judicial Council ruled that a clergyperson cannot perform same-sex
marriages or civil unions, even if their regional church district or regional
annual conference supports such rituals. 10|
A very complete analysis of the denomination's policies regarding homosexuality
was once found at David W. Perkins' site at: http://www.geocities.com/ Unfortunately, Geocites terminated all of its sites, and this one apparently did not survive.
- The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 1992, Paragraph 906.12,
- "The Church Studies Homosexuality," Cokesbury, Nashville, TN; (1994) Page 19.
- Jimmy Creech, "Response to the Judicial Charge", 1998-JAN-26
- "Methodists vote anti-gay," PlanetOut, 2000-MAY-11, at: http://www.planetout.com/pno/news/article.html?2000
- Linda Bloom, "Daily Wrap-up: Delegates honor black members, mark UMW
milestone," United Methodist Church, 2004-APR-30, at:
- "Prohibit promotion of acceptance of homosexuality," Petition
40255, General Conference, 2004-MAY-4, at:
- "United Methodists approve ordaining gay clergy, marriage,"
Associated Press, 2006-JUN-02, at:
- "Hundreds protest Methodist church's stance on homosexuality at Fort Worth
conference," Dallas Morning News, 2008-MAY-01, at:
- "Methodist court affirms ban on clergy uniting same-sex couples," Associated
Press, 2009-MAY-02, at:
Copyright © 2000 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Last update: 2009-MAY-03
Author: B.A. Robinson