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United Methodist Church Makes Historic Moves Toward LGBTQ Inclusion

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United Methodist Church Makes Historic Moves Toward LGBTQ Inclusion

News Brief by Tracy Simmons | FāVS News

Update 7:20 a.m. May 1: Ordination ban of LGBTQ clergy voted out of Book of Discipline.

The United Methodist Church moved a step closer this week toward lifting its decades-old ban on same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy through a series of groundbreaking votes at the denomination’s General Conference.

“In general, the mood here is upbeat, and I would classify it as ‘cautiously optimistic’ for the progressive/centrist coalition that is invested in the denomination long term,” said Rev. Gregg Sealey, a reserve delegate from the Pacific Northwest Conference. 

On Tuesday, delegates voted overwhelmingly by 667-54 to approve multiple revisions to the church’s Book of Discipline that remove long-standing restrictions against its LGBTQ members. The changes approved on the consent calendar included eliminating requirements that gay clergy candidates be excluded from ordination, scrapping mandatory penalties for ministers who officiate at same-sex weddings and setting a moratorium on judicial proceedings related to bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy, according to UM News.

Historic Shift Away from 2019 Traditional Plan

The revisions chip away at the UMC’s controversial Traditional Plan passed in 2019 that sought to reinforce the prohibitions on gay marriage and LGBTQ ordination. 

The moves represent a historic shift for the United Methodist Church, which has debated the role of its LGBTQ members for decades as its U.S. congregations have pushed for greater inclusion while many overseas churches remain deeply opposed.

Some conservative congregations have already disaffiliated over the church’s failure to enforce its restrictions, raising concerns that the policy changes could spark further fragmentation. A proposal approved earlier allows for the creation of regional conferences with flexibility to modify rules for their specific contexts.

Sealey said, “In general, there is a spirit of grace and cooperation that has been noticeably absent in the past.”

Supporters of LGBTQ equality hope to remove the denomination’s official stance that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” when more petitions come up for a vote later this week.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of FāVS.News, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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