America's Methodists take stand for orthodoxy, win leadership of a badly fractured church

America’s Methodists take stand for orthodoxy, win leadership of a badly fractured church

The Faith
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[The Atlantic] The United Methodist Church has fractured over the role of LGBTQ people in the denomination. At a special conference in St. Louis this week, convened specifically to address divisions over LGBTQ issues, members voted to toughen prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal, called the “One Church Plan,” was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.

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This is a consequential vote for the future of the United Methodist Church: Many progressive churches will now almost certainly consider leaving the denomination. It’s also a reminder that many Christian denominations, including mainline groups such as the UMC, are still deeply divided over questions of sexuality and gender identity. While the UMC in the United States is roughly evenly divided between those who identify as traditionalists and those who identify as moderates and liberals, it is also a global organization. Many of the growing communities in the Philippines or countries in Africa are committed to theological teachings against same-sex relationships and marriages.

Self-described traditionalists in the United Methodist Church got the outcome they’ve been fighting for. Still, “I think there’s a lot of grief on all sides,” said Keith Boyette, the head of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a main proponent of the Traditional Plan, in an interview on Tuesday. Methodists are in mourning for a United Methodist Church that might be on the brink of a mass exodus.

For years, LGBTQ Methodists, clergy, and their supporters have argued that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities should be fully included in the denomination as leaders, and that their families should be recognized. “As someone who has grown up in our Church, as someone who is gay and goes to one of the least religious colleges in the U.S., my evangelism on campus has grown,” said J. J. Warren, a senior at Sarah Lawrence College who hopes to become a Methodist pastor, during the conference on Tuesday. “We have brought people to Jesus … They did not know God could love them, because their churches said God didn’t … If we could be a Church that brings Jesus to people who are told can’t be loved, that’s what I want our Church to be.”

Others in the denomination, however, see LGBTQ issues as a proxy for bigger divisions over biblical teachings. “This is not a political or social kind of difference. It is primarily, for us, a theological difference, and the truth that the Church has been raised up to share,” Boyette said. “When a Church begins to fracture around its compliance with its doctrine and ethics and discipline, it becomes a house divided. It becomes dysfunctional.”

This article continues at [The Atlantic] Conservative Christians Just Retook the United Methodist Church

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