2019-FEB-26: Delegates at the 2019 General Conference in St, Louis, MO vote to continue the same-sex marriage ban:
Delegates to the Conference voted on two measures related to sexual orientation, They chose to implement the "Traditional Plan" which preserves the current ban on same-sex marriages and on ordaining sexually active homosexuals. They rejected the "One Church Plan" which would have allowed individual pastors to decide to marry same-sex couples and/or ordain practicing homosexuals. The vote was very close: 53.3% to 46.7%.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described the decision. He said it was:
"Not only surprising [but] stunning. It should give hope to all biblically-minded Christians, and it should remind all of us of what we must always clearly see; and that is that there is no way for any church or congregation to move ahead in two contradictory directions at once. Eventually the choice comes down to faithfulness to the Scriptures or the abandonment of the Scriptures.. When it comes to the clear teachings of Scripture, there really is no middle ground and that's not just true for the Methodists."
There are about 20 biblical passages that people have interpreted as banning same-sex behavior; six of them are frequently cited by conservative Christians.
John Lomperis, the United Methodist director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), referred to "deep divides" in the UMC. He said:
"It was particularly odd to see liberal leaders call evangelical United Methodists hateful, 'a bunch of evil folks,' and all kinds of names, and then at the same time see these same liberal leaders promote their primary liberal plan as reflecting their desire for 'we're better together' unity with us, There was plenty of loud, angry protesting. So much hurt all around. It was a rather stressful day."
Council of Bishops President Kenneth Carter commented during a National Public Radio interview broadcast on FEB-27:.
"It is deeply disappointing and it's our struggle. In the U.S., we mirror the fragmentation of our culture and the polarization of our culture."
The Associated Press reported that about 43 percent of Conference delegates were from outside the U.S. Most are believed to have voted against equality. With the present rate at which the church membership in the U.S. is liberalizing their beliefs towards persons with a homosexual or bisexual ordination, the U.S. delegates will probably support any similar vote more strongly at future Conferences, However, the UMC membership in the U.S. is in decline, even as the membership in Africa -- which favors discrimination against homosexuals -- is growing. It might be a long battle before the One Church Plan passes at a future General Conference. 8
Some Methodist churches across the U.S. posted creative signs to express their displeasure at the General Conference decision. For example:
The North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, IM displayed six multiple color doors with the message: "GOD'S DOORS ARE OPEN TO ALL.
The Sunday School children at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, CT made a welcome mat in LGBTcolors.
The First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge in IL obscured the word "United" in their sign with a rainbow covering.
The Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, OH, wrote on their sign, "No matter what the denomination says, God loves you. We do too."
The Smoky Hill United Methodist Church in Centennial, CO posted a message on their sign: "Love is Inclusive. ALL are Welcome."
The First United Methodist Church in Duluth, MN posted a sign: "A Place For All. NO EXCEPTIONS."
The Dayspring United Methodist Church in Tempe, AZ covered up the words "United Methodist Church" on their sign with a sheet reading "OPEN HEARTS, OPEN MINDS, OPEN DOORS."
The Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, FL, took out an an ad in the local newspaper, saying:
"Today the people of Allendale took out a full page ad: a love letter to the LGBTQIA community to say we are sorry and to vow to make this right.
We fully realize some people will need to leave this abusive denomination, and we honor that decision. But if you want to stay and resist evil, injustice, and oppression alongside us, we need you. Despite discriminatory church law, our wedding altar and pulpit is open to ALL called to marriage and ministry."
Nine members of the Greenland Hills United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX prepared and hung five multi-colored banners saying: "WE STAY TO STAND WITH OUR LGBTQ FAMILY."
The Arapaho United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas, posted a message on their church sign with the message "NO MATTER WHAT THE DENOMINATION SAYS, WE SAY ALL MEANS ALL."
The Lakewood United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX, posted a sign saying: "Affirming, Inclusive, Embracing Love, Exploring Faith." They also covered up two words on their church sign, so that it read "Lakewood Church." They also issued a statement saying:
"Lakewood United Methodist Church embraces the concept of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. We affirm that ALL PEOPLE are created in the image of God and, as beloved children of God, are worthy of God's love and grace. Our faith moves us to welcome ALL PERSONS of every age, gender identity, racial or ethnic background, sexual orientation, marital or socio-economic status, physical or mental ability to FULL PARTICIPATION IN OUR FAITH COMMUNITY. We invite ALL PEOPLE in our journey toward greater understanding and mutual respect and reconciliation through Christ." 10
2019-FEB-26: Acceptance of homosexuality among UMC members:
Michael Lipka, writing for the Pew Research Center, predicts a grim future for the United Methodist Church, at least in the U.S. He wrote:
"After years of debate, United Methodist Church leaders voted this week to reaffirm the denomination’s opposition to same-sex marriages and openly gay clergy. As a result, many of the more liberal-leaning congregations are expected to leave the denomination, amounting to a schism in America’s largest mainline Protestant church."
If "many" congregations formally leave the UMC over this matter, then many more congregations will experience a significant loss in membership, thus weakening the denomination significantly.
He reported that the Center found the percentage of UMC members who say homosexuality should be accepted rose from 51% in 2007 to 60% in 2014; those who say homosexuality should be discourage dropped from 39% to 32%. Meanwhile, 49% -- a plurality of members -- favor same-sex marriage while 43% are opposed.
There is a major difference in the acceptance of homosexuality between women and men in the UMC. 62% of women are accepting; 38% of men. 8.9
2018-APR-28: Entire confirmation class at a church refused to join the church:
This year's confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, NE consisted of eight teenagers, aged 13 and 14. They had completed their course. On Confirmation Sunday, they were scheduled to join the Church. Instead, they made an unprecedented move: they all declined to join the church at this time. They took their stand on principle. They objected to the Denomination's decision in February to preserve and strengthen its level of discrimination against the LGBT community.
"We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision. We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage are immoral. ..."
"We are not standing just for ourselves; we are standing for every single member of the LGBTQ+ community who is hurting right now. Because we were raised in this church, we believe that if we all stand together as a whole, we can make a difference."
They received a standing ovation from the congregation!
Pastor the Rev. Kent Little said that he:
"... and our associate pastor are in full support of their decision. We’re proud of them. It’s not an easy thing to do to resist." 13
2019-APR: Church court upholds ban on LBGT clergy & same-sex marriage:
The "Traditional Plan" that was approved in February's General Conference takes effect at the start of the year 2010. It strengthens language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline that bars LGBTQ clergy and forbids same-sex marriage across the entire world. On APR-26, the plan was approved by a Judicial Council decision. The Book defines "self-avowed practicing homosexual" as a person who is "living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual." Bishops are prohibited from consecrating, ordaining or commissioning them. Also, church bodies cannot approve or recommend them as candidates. Effective during 2020-JAN, a member of the clergy who performs a same-sex wedding will face a minimum one-year suspension without pay. If a clergy member repeats the action, they will have their credentials terminated.
However, the court found that seven of the 17 petitions that made up the Traditional Plan are unconstitutional and will not be added with the others into the Book of Discipline.
In a separate ruling on APR-26, the court upheld an "exit plan" that allows congregations that disagree with decisions made at the special session to leave the denomination while continuing to own their property if they disagree with decisions made at the special session.
There is evidence that a future church split may occur. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) said that the court ruling:
"... confirms that United Methodism will continue to globalize and move in a more traditionalist and orthodox direction.
This ruling should also alert adamant dissenters that the church’s teaching on marriage will not change and that the time has come for creating new more liberal denominations that will accommodate their views. Traditionalists are willing to assist in this process on generous terms." 11
On APR-29 Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discussed the internal debate within the UMC over human sexuality during his podcast "The Briefing." He predicted:
"The United Methodist Church is not going to be able to hold together. It is not going to be a united Methodist Church. The polarities within the denomination are simply too great." 12
Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, acknowledged that:
"... some disappointed church liberals still hope for revocation [of the Traditional Plan] at the next General Conference in 2020. But the wiser among them realize that membership trends, with growth in Africa and decline in the American church's most liberal regions, preclude such hope." 12
Tooley wrote a blog post on APR-29, saying:
"Shorn of these clergy, including most U.S. bishops, nearly all the official seminaries, church agencies and other institutional forces for cultural conformity, global United Methodism will have to develop new resources as a countercultural force in America. There will be new seminaries and other forms of theological training, new publishing and media outlets, new less inert agencies, new concepts of episcopal leadership, new focus on soul-winning and church planting, new understandings of Christian community that is joyfully countercultural." 12
2019-MAY-01: Webmaster's comment:
Support for the LGBT community and marriage equality is steadily increasing in the U.S. and in many other areas of the world. I agree that internal strains in the UMC will probably result in a new, separate, more liberal, Methodist denomination being created in the near future. I suspect that it will eventually grow to become the largest Methodist faith group, at least in the U.S. It would certainly be more attractive to most U.S. millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) than a denomination that discriminates against LGBT members and clergy. There is a reasonable probability that differences between the two groups will lessen in the future, and that they may merge again into a single denomination. Time will tell.
This series of essays will be augmented as more details become available.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Way Forward: Talks & Marketing," United Methodist Insight, Email sent on 2018-AUG-03.