Deacon Ross Murray: “Church is supposed to be a place of refuge and safety, but that’s not the case for our United Methodist friends right now.”
The United Methodist Church, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, faces a likely surge in defections and acts of defiance after delegates at a crucial conference Tuesday rejected a move to ease the faith’s ban on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy.
Supporters cried while others vented their anger after delegates, on a 449-374 vote, defeated a proposal that would have let regional and local church bodies decide for themselves on gay-friendly policies.
“Devastation,” was how former Methodist pastor Rebecca Wilson of Detroit described her feelings. “As someone who left because I’m gay, I’m waiting for the church I love to stop bringing more hate.”
GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, says it stands with LGBTQ United Methodists. The denomination has adopted a plan in a special conference that will force and accelerate the expulsion of clergy who identify as LGBTQ or who take actions supporting the LGBTQ community, like performing weddings for same-sex couples.
“Church is supposed to be a place of refuge and safety, but that’s not the case for our United Methodist friends right now,” said Deacon Ross Murray, GLAAD’s Senior Director of Training and Education. “This decision is not only out of touch with where a majority of Methodist Americans are today, but defies true Christian values of love and justice in favor of isolation, discrimination, and real harm for LGBTQ people and their loved ones.”
The denomination met in a special conference specifically to consider various “plans” to address the denomination’s stance on LGBTQ community.
PFLAG National—the nation’s first and largest organization for LGBTQ people, their families, and allies—issued the following response:
Were it not for the open mind and welcoming heart of a UMC minister at the Church of the Village in New York City in 1973, there would be no PFLAG. As a member of the St. Paul & St. Andrew UMC, and the PFLAG mom of a gay daughter, I can’t imagine where my family would be now, without that first act of love and faith 46 years ago.
Imagine: Hundreds of thousands of families torn apart, without the life-saving resources they need and the safe space that PFLAG meetings provide—many of them in affirming UMC churches across the country. The actions and words coming out of the UMC today are difficult, worrying, and run counter to everything PFLAG—and millions of UMC members—stand for. Simply put: We are all God’s children.
We are here—and will stay here—to protect LGBTQ people from harmful languages and actions, and affirm that they are loved inclusive of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
Family Equality Council CEO Rev. Stan J. Sloan said on behalf of the organization, “This decision by the United Methodist Church is disappointing for all LGBTQ families, but it is truly heartbreaking for those who have found their spiritual home in the United Methodist tradition. As an Episcopal priest and as a Board Member of Union Theological Seminary, I feel confident that future leaders of the United Methodist tradition will look back on this decision with shame and regret.”
Sloan added, “In the meantime, Family Equality stands in support of our Methodist families and the decisions they face, to either remain with a tradition they have loved or to move their worship home to communities that celebrate and embrace their relationships and their children.”
Officially, United Methodist Church policies have excluded LGBTQ people, even while some strong advocates and allies come from within the denomination. The Book of Discipline, the highest governing document for the denomination, states “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The denomination forbids ordaining LGBTQ people or performing weddings for same-sex couples. The adopted plan reinforces all those policies and adds further pressure on church leadership to enact them.
LGBTQ advocates have attempted to change the anti-LGBTQ policies since the 1970s, but to no avail. Despite the prohibition, many United Methodist Churches have performed weddings for same-sex couples and elevated LGBTQ people into leadership. The conference over the last three days was a special attempt to reach a compromise in a global church where the balance of power is shifting to countries that do not embrace LGBTQ people.