United Methodists began gathering Tuesday for their General Conference held every four years. During the conference they will decide if a 40-year ban on gay clergy will be lifted. In four years, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians have all dropped their ban on gay or lesbian clergy.
According to a news release sent to our office today, we can report that 10 million Protestants are members of denominations that have no barriers to membership or ordination for gay people. United Methodists might double that figure at their General Conference which meets April 24-May 4, in Tampa, Florida. The Love Your Neighbor Common Witness Coalition is engaging delegates in hopes of changing hearts so this global denomination drops its prohibitions against lesbian and gay Christians, and does not add transgender individuals to its list of people to exclude.
Every four years, around 1,000 United Methodist delegates from all over the world meet to determine church policies through votes on thousands of legislative items. After 40 years of exclusion, supporters of full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people believe this might be the year to end the discrimination. Official policy first implemented in 1972 now reads in the Book of Discipline as “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Since then, a series of bans on marriage and funding have compounded the exclusions but a growing number of church leaders are speaking out.
Pro-LGBT Christians refuse to give up on the church and many see factors which make denominational change in 2012 a strong possibility.
“It is the baptized children of God we are talking about. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members are already our sisters and brothers in Christ. They are already pastors and church leaders. It is time for our official policies to catch up with the leading of the Holy Spirit. There are no second class citizens in the family of God,” said retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert.