Majority of United Methodist Church delegates bail on LGBT inclusion in preliminary vote.
United Methodist Church leaders are currently at odds with each other over whether or not to keep tacit support of the LGBT community intact or abandon it altogether. The latter seems to be the path they want to take according to a preliminary vote put forth by over 800 delegates at an international conference in St. Louis on Monday.
The proposal has two groups; those who support the inclusive One Church plan or those who support the Traditional Plan. Voters on Monday favored being traditional with 56-percent of that vote while 47-percent remained open to diversity.
According to the Associated Press, The Council of Bishops not wanting to avoid a division by discord backed the One Church plan that would leave LGBT support up to regional congregations and remove verbiage from church law books which state, "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
A final vote on Tuesday will determine whether or not the Methodist Church will reject the community as far as same-sex weddings, and openly gay church officials.
“This is really painful,” said David Watson, a dean and professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, who was at the gathering. “Our disagreement has pitted friend against friend, which no one wanted.”
Although the Methodist Church, which has over 7 million members in the U.S. alone, has never formally given its blessing to the ordination of LGBT clergy members or officiating gay unions like the American Episcopal or Presbyterian churches have, challenges within the Methodist Church to overturn bans on homosexuality have given rise to defiance and threats of a schism.
Another hurdle is that nearly half of the delegates at the conference are from Africa, a collective voice that has notoriously held a strong resistance to LGBT progression.
"We Africans are not children in need of Western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics,” said Rev. Jerry Kulah, dean at a Methodist theology school in Liberia. “We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal church elite in the U.S.”
Some conservative American allies such as Rev. John Miles II endorse Rev. Kulah's sentiments.
“I have a very difficult time even though I have gays in my family and in my church,” said Rev. Miles. “I know it grieves them and it grieves me to grieve them. But it’s just what we believe is the truth.”
Methodist LGBT members say the church and it's opposing delegates are being more institutional than inspirational.
“For me it’s about who’s in God’s love, and nobody’s left out of that,” said Lois McCullen Parr, 60, an LGBT church elder from Albion, Michigan. “The Gospel I understand said Jesus is always widening the circle, expanding the circle, so that everyone’s included.”
In a passionate speech, which was met with roaring applause, lay delegate and gay Methodist Jeffrey Warren addressed the delegates at the conference on Monday.
“We desire a church that seeks the justice of God,” he said. “They didn't know God could love them, because their churches said God didn't....We are the church. We are God’s children, let us be the church together.”
You can see his entire speech by clicking HERE.