there has been an ongoing struggle in the United Methodist Church
(UMC) to adopt a policy of full inclusion of its LGBTQ parishioners
and clergy and all the spiritual gifts we bring to the church.
UMC’s vote at General Conference last month to uphold- 53% to
47%- its Traditionalist Plan, which is to oppose same-sex marriage
and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy. Now the church has the potential
for a schism with its global delegation outweighing the U.S.
the hopes of avoiding a schism, the Council of Bishops had
recommended the One Church Plan that would grant individual ministers
and regional church bodies the decision to ordain LGBTQs as clergy
and to perform LGBTQ weddings. It was believed that such a decision
on a church-by-church and regional basis would reflect the diversity
as well as affirm the different churches and cultures throughout the
global body of UMC.
One Church Plan, however, was one of three proposed plans by the
UMC’s Commission on a Way Forward. The others include the
Traditionalist Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan, both
exclusionary to LGBTQ parishioners.
One Church Plan would excise the offensive and controversial language
targeted at LGBTQs from the Book of Discipline and replace it with a
more compassion, accurate, up-to-date, and contextualized language
about human sexuality in support of the mission and all its
the One Church Plan would uphold religious freedom and thereby
safeguard those clerics and conferences unwilling to ordain or marry
us because of their theological convictions.
the UMC continues to be contradictory in its policies concerning
LGBTQ worshippers, and the church’s contentious views reared
its ugly head at the 2016 meeting of global delegates.
example, while UMC states that we have and are of the same sacred
worth as heterosexuals, and that the church is committed to the
ministry of all people regardless of gender identities and sexual
orientations. However, the church also views queer sexualities as
sinful. The Book of Discipline states that sexuality is “God’s
good gift to all persons” and that people are “fully
human only when their sexuality is acknowledged and affirmed by
themselves, the church and society.”
this rule is not applicable to LGBTQs.
church’s conservative and liberal wings merged in 1968 to
become the UMC, it has implemented stricter positions against us. In
1972, for example, UMC delegates inserted in The Book of Discipline
that as a church body, “We do not condone the practice of
homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian
In 1984, the
delegates barred from its general conference clerics who were
“self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” And in 1996, the
UMC gave the ecclesiastical order that prohibited “ceremonies
that celebrate homosexual unions,” which was affirmed by the
Methodists’ high court in 1998. The church also maintains its
policy requiring heterosexual clerics to remain faithful in their
marriages, and for both unmarried heterosexual and LGBTQ clerics to
it is clear that the UMC is not in lockstep with the changing
societal tide toward LGBTQ acceptance, it is also not in lockstep
with its own more progressive arm of "reconciling and inclusive”
congregations. However, the UMC’s history of struggle on this
issue clearly illustrates the defiant will for LGBTQ inclusion, and
churches in Massachusetts have always led the way.
example, in last Sunday’s Boston Globe nearly three dozen
United Methodist churches across the Commonwealth took out a
half-page ad affirming their belief “in the sacredness of
advocacy in Massachusetts churches have shown for decades.
the 1990s, the Union United Methodist Church (UUMC), a predominately
African American congregation located in Boston’s South End —
once the epicenter of the city's LGBTQ community — is one of
them. And it is the one institution least expected to be lauded among
LGBTQ people of African descent because of the Black Church's
notorious history of homophobia. When its pastor came out at General
in 2016 to move the global church body's moral compass against its
anti-LGBTQ policies, UUMC was in full support.
June 2011 more than 100 Methodist ministers in New England have
pledged to marry LGBTQ couples in defiance of the denomination’s
ban on same-sex unions. Approximately one out of nine Methodist
clerics signed a statement pledging to open their churches to LGBTQ
couples that stated, “We repent that it has taken us so long to
act… We realize that our church’s discriminatory
policies tarnish the witness of the church to the world, and we are
In 2013, the Reverend Frank
Schaefer, pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in
Pennsylvania, was forced to stand trial for officiating his son’s
2007 same-sex nuptials.
love him so much and didn't want to deny him that joy. I had to
follow my heart,” Schaefer told the New York Daily News.
Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Church, however,
wanted to drill home to Schaefer and his allies that he —
irrespective of familial love or Christian belief — blatantly
and willfully violated the church’s law book, the Book of
Discipline, prohibiting same-sex marriages.
where Methodist clerics in New England stand on same-sex marriages,
Schaefer officiated his son’s nuptials here in Massachusetts.
decision to oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ
clergy is both wrong-headed and wrong-hearted. However, as LGBTQ
people we must know that this religious intolerance and spiritual
abuse are antithetical to the social gospel of Jesus Christ: that all
people under God have the same sacred worth — even if the
United Methodist Church doesn't practice it.