ST. LOUIS – The United Methodist Church voted in favor of a plan it says is in line with Christian teachings, but it leaves many members who identify as LGBTQ and allies wondering if there is a future for them in the denomination.
After days of intense and emotional discussion, 56 percent of the approximately 800 delegates in attendance at the General Conference Special Session voted in favor of the Traditional Plan which upholds the church’s stance prohibiting LGBTQ members from being ordained and does not permit same-sex couples to be married.
After the vote was complete, dozens of people filled the lobby outside the convention hall at the Dome at America’s Center to sing, pray and support one another. St. Louis police were called to the scene but stood back as the defeated church members demonstrated.
J.J. Warren is a lay delegate from New York who is in the process of becoming ordained. He identifies as gay and calls the vote “incredibly painful.”
“It’s obviously crushing,” said Warren.
The decision will impact the diverse membership of more than 12 million around the world including famous church members Jeff Sessions, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and James Comey.
“It’s very difficult to do God’s mission in precisely the same uniform way when you have churches in Monrovia, Liberia, and San Francisco, California, and Peoria, Illinois,” said Bishop Ken Carter, President of the Council of Bishops.
Membership is growing in areas like Africa and Asia where LGBTQ are not widely accepted. Some defeated UMC members say they will leave the church while others like Warren and Kennedy Mwita say they will stay with UMC and continue to push for inclusion from within.
“I would really encourage all the LGBT people and all the allies who are in support of the Simple Plan and the One Church plan to remain in the church,” said Mwita, a District Superintendent from Kenya. “We can only change from inside, we cannot change from outside.”