A lot of LGBTQ and progressive Methodists are now on the defense after their leaders decided to crack down on homosexuality.
According to the Atlantic, a special conference was held in St. Louis this week. Methodist leaders from around the globe traveled to Missouri to participate in the meeting to discuss how to handle LGBTQ issues.
As the Book of Discipline currently states, Methodist clergy members are not allowed to lead same-sex weddings. “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals” are also not allowed to become members of the clergy.
At this conference, bishops, top clergy members, initially wanted to ease restrictions on LGBTQ matters. They introduced a “One Church Plan” proposal to give local congregations and conferences authority over such subjects.
Despite the goal of the proposal being an attempt at keeping the denomination together, the conference’s result has split its members up even more. By the end of that conference, members chose to instead tighten restrictions on homosexuality, LGTBQ clergy, and same-sex marriage. They did so by voting on a “Traditional Plan” which affirmed the anti-gay teachings.
This main branch decision will ultimately cause ripples throughout the entire denomination. The United Methodist Church is fairly split in the United States of America between traditionalists and progressive churches.
The United Methodist Communications and Research NOW collected data between September 27 to October 4 of last year from 541 American members. The results found that 44% of respondents described their religious beliefs as traditional/conservative, 28% said they were moderate, and only 20% defined themselves as progressive or liberal.
This result, however, won’t just affect Americans. As Fortune notes, there are 12 million members worldwide who will be affected by this result. This includes members within communities like the Philippines or countries within Africa, which will become more conservative after this announcement.
As for the progressively minded members, there are already mumblings, and all out threats, of leaving the denomination.
“You will be putting a virus into the American church that will make it very sick, and it will be sick quickly,” said Rev. Tom Berlin of Virginia in an impassioned speech before the final decision of the Traditional Plan was announced.
“Many of us have members who will leave,” he added, according to NPR.
“Many pastors are going to lead their church away from the connection. Some conferences will leave, I believe. Other people will stay and fight. And they will do weddings; they will break the Book of Discipline; there will be trials; it will be in the news,” he said before saying the focus will shift from any great accomplishments of the church before this.
“It’s going to be about the people we don’t serve,” Berlin noted, “and the disagreement that will continue.”