On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church decided to take an official stance on homosexuality in favor of the Traditional Plan. The vote passed in a 53 [percent] to 47 [percent] vote.
After a three-day long debate at the Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Methodist church leaders from around the globe chose to retain the current policy written in their law, which holds “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Under the Traditional Plan, the United Methodist Church will maintain their ban on same-sex marriage and gay clergy as well as tighten existing regulations.
Since the decision was made, a split of UMC appears imminent. The denomination comprising of 12 million members worldwide is in irreconcilable turmoil.
“It is time for another movement,” said Reverend Mike Slaughter, of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio. “We don’t even know what that is yet, but it is something new.”
“This feels like one generation locking down the church for the next,” added retired UMC bishop William H. Willimon. “That’s a death sentence.”
While those in favor of the thwarted One Church Plan — an alternative that would have allowed individual churches to decide on their homosexuality stance — are lamenting over UMC’s decision, conservatives are celebrating their narrow victory.
Tom Lambrecht, an ordained elder from Texas, stated that the United Methodists must retain tradition to survive, and if progressives disagree, it would be in everyone’s best interest for them to leave the denomination so UMC’s focus could be on ministry rather than social issues.
“We need to be faithful to the traditional standard of marriage,” said Lambrecht. “No organization allows its members to consistently disobey the rules.”
Many leaders and lay members from abroad, including Russia’s Marina Yuga, share Lambrecht’s sentiments and have long been concerned about the “progressive direction” of American Methodists.
“We do need to praise God and multiply and same-sex marriage will not allow us to multiply,” said Yuga. “If you do not agree with this, you are violating the law of the creator.”
It’s quite clear that the debate amongst participating churches and how they will move forward is far from over.
It hinges not only on theological matters but financial. In order for individual churches to depart from the denomination, they likely need to make settlements related to transferring property, as well as liabilities tied to UMC’s $23 billion pension fund, according to a report by The New York Times.
The pivotal decision to maintain traditional values regarding homosexuality marks the end of a debate that has been stirring up tension within the denomination for years, but the division is just beginning.
Unfortunately for UMC, it seems as though the schism that they were so desperately trying to avoid is fast approaching.