United Methodist Church Body Proposes More Open Stance on Homosexuality

The Rev. Laishi Bwalya, Matthew "Theo" Williams and the Rev. Rachel Birkhan-Rommelfanger discuss different approaches to the church's debate on human sexuality. (Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS)
The Rev. Laishi Bwalya, Matthew “Theo” Williams and the Rev. Rachel Birkhan-Rommelfanger discuss different approaches to the church’s debate on human sexuality. (Photo by Heather Hahn, UMNS)

The United Methodist Church is taking a small step towards becoming a more welcoming place for LGBT people.

The Connectional Table, a global church body tasked with articulating a vision for the UMC, has supported a proposal that would make sure clergy members aren’t defrocked for officiating same-sex weddings or coming out as gay.

According to United Methodist News, the affirmation taken on Tuesday wasn’t a formal vote. The legislation will be need to be finalized when the Connectional Table meets in May and then approved by the 2016 meeting of the General Conference, the highest lawmaking assembly in the church.

While on the one hand removing punishments for clergy who are supportive of LGBT rights, the proposal also reaffirmed the UMC’s doctrine on homosexuality. The text notes that the church “historically has not condoned the practice of homosexuality and has considered the practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” It also says that the UMC should still be banned from using church funds “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”

Rev. Kennetha J. Bigham-Tsai, a Connectional Table member, said the draft proposal highlighted a “third way” for the church to come to an agreement about homosexuality.

“We’ve tried to allow some exercise of conscience, to allow for varying beliefs, to allow for varying practices within different contexts,” she said, “and to open a space for grace where people can live together in unity with their different beliefs.”

With more than seven million members in the United States alone, the UMC has been struggling in recent years to come to an agreement about how to minister to LGBT people. UMC clergy members in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York have recently come under fire for officiating at same-sex weddings. In January, the UMC decided not to put a retired bishop on trial for blessing a same-sex union in Birmingham, Alabama.

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SOURCE: The Huffington Post
Carol Kuruvilla

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