LGBTQ-friendly vote marks progressive shift for Methodists

The United Methodist Church moved in a more progressive and LGBTQ-affirming direction at this month’s US regional conference, including the election of a second openly gay bishop.Conservatives believe that development accelerate the exit from One of the largest Protestant denominations in the country.

Each of UMC’s five U.S. jurisdictions met separately in early November to approve similarly worded measures aimed at a future for the church where “LGBTQIA+ people are protected, affirmed and empowered.” did.

They also passed non-binding measures requiring anyone to withdraw from leadership roles if they plan to leave the sect soon.

The sect still officially bans same-sex marriage and bans the ordination of “identifying homosexuals”, and only a legislative assembly called the General Assembly can change that. only.

But this month’s vote shows that there is growing momentum, at least in the American half of the global church, to defy these policies and overthrow them in the next legislative session in 2024.

Proponents and opponents of these measures say that their churches are becoming more or less a “big tent” from the same trope, as Unified Methodists have long been described as a theologically diverse and mainstream denomination. increase.

“It shows that the big tent has collapsed,” said Pastor Jay Serrell, president of the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Society, which has helped churches wanting to leave the denomination.

“For years, bishops have told traditionalists that the United Methodist Church has a place for all,” he said. In addition, we now have the most progressive or liberal bishops’ council in Methodist history. “

But Jan Lawrence, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which works to include Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities, praised the local jurisdiction. She cited their pro-LGBTQ vote and expanding racial, ethnic and gender diversity in bishops.

According to the United Methodist News Service, the jurisdiction elected the Church’s first Native American and Filipino-American bishops, as well as other landmark votes within certain regions.

“It’s a big tent church,” Lawrence said. “One of his concerns that some people have expressed is that the church lacks leadership that reflects the diversity of the church. This bishop election does not solve that, but it is a step in the right direction. is.”

Bishop Cedric Bridgeforth, elected by the Western Diocese Conference, agreed. He was the first openly gay African-American elected to the bishopric. The vote comes six years after the Western Jurisdiction elected the sect’s first openly lesbian bishop, Cullen of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, his Olivet.

Bridgeforth said a resolution affirming LGBTQ “demonstrates bringing sects more in line with the mainstream in our country.”

Bridgeforth will lead churches in the Greater Northwest Area, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and some churches in Montana and Canada. He said he has always worked across ideological boundaries in his administrative work and will continue to do so.

“I have used our differences as an opportunity for us to come together,” he said. “It creates more space for different kinds of conversations than ‘That’s different, that’s bad, we can’t be together’. Make that transition.”

“I don’t want to be where no one wants to be,” he said.

Progressive groups have argued that the church should be open to ordinate bishops and other clergy regardless of sexual orientation.

But conservatives say churches must follow their own rules.

“I believe Bishop Bridgeforth is a man of divine worth, but he was not qualified for the office of elder, much less bishop, and should not have been elected,” said Serrell. I got

According to the United Methodist News Service, at least 300 congregations have left their denomination in the United States this year. Overseas conferences in Bulgaria and Slovakia have ended affiliations with denominations and African churches are considering it, he said.

Many go to newly formed conservative sects. global methodist church.

UMC is a worldwide sect. Membership in the United States has declined from its peak of 11 million in the 1960s to about 6.5 million. Primarily driven by growth and mergers in Africa, membership numbers abroad surged to match or exceed the United States. Overseas representatives have historically allied with American conservatives to support the church’s stance on sexuality.

Advocating a compromise that divides denominations amicably, Negotiated in 2020, That year’s Legislative Assembly collapsed after being postponed three times because of the pandemic. The next general conference will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, in April 2024.

vote 2019 General Conference It was the latest in several recent decades to tighten church bans on gay clergy and marriage. It urged delegates to be elected, and the impact was felt in local ballots this month.


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