Schism: refusal to accept LGBTQ Christians splits church

The question of whether to accept LGBTQ Christians into the fold is causing a schism in the United Methodist Church.

America’s third-largest religious denomination is likely break apart over its members’ inability to reconcile differing opinions on whether to affirm LGBTQ Christians.

Delegates to the church’s General Conference ended a three-day meeting on Tuesday by strengthening the enforcement of existing church doctrine.

This prohibits same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.

The vote for what members call the “Traditional Plan” is likely to cause the schism.

The plan was approved on Tuesday by a vote of 438 to 384, with 53 percent of delegates voting in favour of enforcing existing church doctrine.

A last-moment attempt to pass an alternate proposal, known as the One Church Plan, failed.

That plan, recommended by the denomination’s Council of Bishops, would have allowed individual churches and regional annual conferences to decide whether to ordain and marry LGBTQ members.

The denomination’s Legislative Committee, made up of all 864 General Conference delegates, rejected the One Church Plan on Monday. Delegates also rejected a proposal on Tuesday to replace the Traditional Plan with the One Church Plan.

Earlier in the day, the United Methodists’ top court ruled that parts of the Traditional Plan were unconstitutional, requiring delegates to amend them.

Much of the discussion, as amendments were proposed and debated, argued the petitions that made up the plan singled out LGBTQ people.

Only one of those petitions was amended.

As the Traditional Plan passed with 53 percent of the vote, observers supporting the full inclusion of LGBTQ members in the church began to sing the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” A number of delegates, some wearing rainbow-colored stoles, circled at the center of the conference floor.

Following the vote, a motion to appeal the vote on the Traditional Plan to the denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, passed. Petitions offering an exit plan to churches that want to leave the denomination also passed.

The Judicial Council will review the Traditional Plan at its next scheduled meeting in April.

Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of the General Conference, says any piece of legislation declared unconstitutional at that meeting will not be included in the Book of Discipline,

All other changes will take effect from 1 January 2020.


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