Following a vote at a global meeting of United Methodist Church leaders on Tuesday that upheld the church’s ban on same sex marriages and on LGBTQ individuals serving in the clergy, local Methodist pastors — including the leader of the largest Methodist church in the country — are suggesting a realignment may be in the offing.
The vote in St. Louis last night saw 53 percent of voting delegates supporting what was called the “traditional plan,” keeping restrictions on LGBTQ participation in place. A competing “open plan” would have changed Methodist doctrine to make the church open and affirming to all regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
Following the vote, Rev. Adam Hamilton, the founding pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, the largest Methodist congregation in the country with more than 22,000 members, tweeted that the result had been “very painful for many people,” and indicated that some were “looking at holding a meeting with key leaders in the UMC – bishops and other key leaders – at Resurrection after Easter to discuss where Methodism goes from here.”
Hamilton was among the church leaders who took to the floor at the conference Tuesday to argue in favor of the open plan. He delivered a forceful speech saying that the “regressive” traditional plan would alienate “not only progressives but centrists” and would likely spark increased activism by LGBTQ advocates.
Here are Hamilton’s remarks from the general conference floor:
‘Cultural divide’ on issues of sexuality
Asbury United Methodist Church Rev. Gayla Rapp, who has organized several events on LGBTQ issues and her Prairie Village church in recent years, said the final tally from Tuesday’s vote came as something of a shock. Delegates from UMC conferences in Africa voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the bans on LGBTQ participation in place.
“In some ways, we’re surprised because many of us went into this conference thinking we had the votes for the open plan to pass,” Rapp said. “It turns out we didn’t. We underestimated the cultural divide before us, on where they are on issues of sexuality and where we are.”
Asbury voted two years ago to formally make themselves an “open and affirming” church that welcomed people regardless of sexual orientation or gender, so there’s no doubt as to where Rapp’s congregation stands on the issue. The challenge now, she said, is figuring out how the congregation will align itself with larger organizations.
“For us, that hard work has been done, because we already voted on where we stand,” she said. “We just have to decide where we line up now.”
Many churches in the UMC’s Great Plains conference, which covers Kansas and Nebraska, may also decide they can no longer align with the larger UMC organization.
“There are a number of other churches that are going to be asking the same question, about, ‘If we can’t align ourselves with the traditional church, where do we go now?'” Rapp said. “But, you know, in a way this is a step we’re all ready for. It’s time for the debate to be over. There’s no need for pointing fingers or blame. Now is the time to move forward and to focus on doing God’s work again.”