Longstanding policies banning same-sex marriages and LGBT clergy members are up for debate during a meeting of the top Methodist policy making body.
Autumn Allison, Nashville Tennessean
ST. LOUIS – United Methodists on Tuesday rejected an effort by more progressive members of the global church to lift the denomination’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy.
During the special session of the church’s General Conference in St. Louis, delegates voted not to substitute the more inclusive One Church Plan for the conservative Traditional Plan, which reinforces the denomination’s current prohibitions.
The swap failed by 75 votes, 374 to 449. But the delegates still need to take a final vote Tuesday on the Traditional Plan.
The Rev. Tom Berlin, a delegate from the Virginia Conference, spoke from the General Conference stage in support of the One Church Plan, which would have allowed same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy while adding protections for churches and pastors who do not support the marriages.
“What’s being said in private conversations is that if the Traditional Plan, the majority plan, is voted in today, you will be putting a virus into the American church and it will make it very sick and it will be sick quickly,” Berlin said.
Urging support for One Church Plan
The push for substitution was delivered via a minority report. It is a General Conference mechanism that supporters of the One Church Plan decided to use after the plan failed to make it out of legislative committee on Tuesday.
Berlin said passing the Traditional Plan sends a hurtful message to LGBT people in the church and their allies. He said he had already heard from some people who said they would be leaving the church if the Traditional Plan passes.
“Whether you like it or not, they feel that their church is exhibiting itself as being against gay people along with others,” Berlin said. “It’s not your intention I know, but it’s what they experience and that matters.”
Nancy Denardo, a delegate from the Western Pennsylvania Conference, spoke against the One Church Plan substitution and cited parts of the Bible as support for her reasoning.
“The One Church Plan does not agree with the words of our savior and in so doing deceives young persons into believing that same-gender marriage is OK with God when clearly it is not,” Denardo said. “There is danger to that not only to those being deceived but the deceivers as well.”
Methodists divided over LGBT issues
Before the top policy-making body of the denomination voted down the One Church Plan, the delegates, bishops and others on the floor of the special session joined together in prayer.
The United Methodist Church remains deeply divided over the denomination’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy.
This week’s big meeting in St. Louis put that on full display and the outcome threatens to split the global church of more than 12 million members.
United Methodists have disagreed over their church’s position that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and other LGBT matters for nearly 50 years. They continue to do so today.
The 864 lay and clergy delegates from around the world are voting Tuesday on how the church should move ahead.
The legislative committee on Monday advanced the Traditional Plan.
But parts of the Traditional Plan were ruled unconstitutional under church rules Tuesday by the denomination’s Judicial Council. It remains to be seen how those rulings will impact the delegate’s work on Tuesday.
Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter: @HollyAMeyer.
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