St. Louis held a special session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to restrict LGBTQ+ community on Feb. 23-26.
The reason for this was a recent concern on the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. There has been dispute in the church over homosexuality: whether the church should allow LBGTQ+ clergy or recognize gay marriages.
The vote was to determine whether a plan called the One Church Plan would be passed. This plan would get rid of the restrictions on homosexuality in the church and leave issues like LGBTQ+ ordination and same-gender weddings up to local churches.
The opposite of this plan is called the Traditional Plan, which would more strongly enforce the rules against homosexuality.
Delegates passed the Traditional Plan by a 438 to 384 vote.
“I don’t agree with it, and it saddens me. I think it reflects the opinions of leaders in the African churches whose cultures are in a very different place regarding LGBTQ acceptance and also a small subset of American hardliners,” Lisa Long, member of Webster’s The Gathering United Methodist Church, said about the vote.
“My main issue with the vote is that it’s dividing the denomination, and I think that everyone is going to lose because of the vote,” Lamar Fitzgerald, methodist church member and librarian said.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is made up of around seven million members in the United States, and five million more across the world, mainly in Africa.
“The conference that was held had people from all over the world and not just America, so obviously in other parts of the world, the LGBTQ+ community isn’t as accepted. Even though it’s still not as accepted as it should be here, it’s worse in other countries. People with much more conservative views than even conservatives here in the States got to vote. So I don’t think it represents the Methodist Church as a whole in America, but I do think it represents the Methodist Church in other regions,” Miofsky said.
With much disagreement about the vote, “Churches are already preparing to leave and taking steps toward the creation of a new denomination,” Long said.
“This generation— the new generation of leaders— they want acceptance,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think the vote is really disappointing and discouraging to people of the LGBTQ+ community and to allies. I think that in terms of progressive churches in the methodist church, a lot of them are going to start leaving or joining other churches,” Caleb Miofsky, junior, said. Miofsky is the gay son of a pastor at The Gathering Church.
“Even though the vote is the way it is, the gathering is still going to allow LGBTQ+ people to come and take all levels of leadership, become as involved as they want and be treated equal with everyone else. Because that’s how it should be,” Miofsky said.
“I go to a church that is progressive and fully affirming of LGBTQ individuals. We will continue affirming, marrying and celebrating LGBTQ people as members and leaders,” Long said about The Gathering. “Therefore, we will be leaving the United Methodist Church.”
The questions now facing The Gathering are whether it will join other affiliated churches, create a new denomination with similar churches or if it will leave alone.
“We are waiting to see how some of the legal questions play out and how the dust settles. We know we get to keep our property, but there are a lot of questions yet to be answered. All we know for sure is that we will no longer be part of the UMC,” Long said.
Long also was able to give insight about churches that may have less clear cut paths.
“I know people who go to other UMC churches where things are not as clear. (Those members and) their pastors may hold progressive stances. However, some of the older members and biggest donors may have more conservative views. The church might stay UMC to please the people who give them the money, but I think they will lose a lot of members who switch to progressive churches.”
This will be Elise Keller’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.