Methodist Council Upholds LGBT Ban

Opponents may leave to form a new denomination

The nine-member Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC) upheld on April 26 essential portions of a certain new plan which reinforces the ban on marriage of couples of same-sex and the ordination of gay pastors. In its decision, the UMC council ruled that the approval of the “Traditional Plan” earlier in 2019 during the General Conference has a few parts which violate the constitution of the denomination. This ruling, officially named as Judicial Council Decision 1378, refused to debar the complete Traditional Plan, noting that the unconstitutional parts could be cut off from the main text.

The decision said the changes needed to the plan will not affect the content of other portions. The constitutional petitions are independent of unconstitutional petitions, and the former can survive on its own. The list of requests declared constitutional included Petition 90032 which provides a more detailed description of the “self-avowed practicing homosexual” term in Book of Discipline. Another is Petition 90042, mandating suspension for a period of one year for any pastor officiating any same-sex wedding. Also included is Petition 90043, which stops a person from ordination if the individual fails to satisfy UMC standards, including the involvement in a same-sex relationship.

The UMC in recent years has been a place for heated, divisive internal debate on whether the denomination must change its stated position when it comes to LGBT issues. The UMC thus held a special session of the General Conference in St. Louis, Missouri to try and synthesize a resolution to end the debate. The delegates, on February 26, voted 438 in favor of the conservative Traditional Plan and 384 against it. The plan maintains the UMC’s old hostile stand against homosexuality and gay marriage. It also prohibits the ordination of all non-celibate homosexuals and pledges stricter enforcement.

The decision was welcomed by conservatives and said that important elements of the Traditional Plan could take effect from January. The liberal faction of the UMC reacted with dismay and one group in particular, Reconciling Ministries Network, asked for an increase of resistance. The Reverend Tom Lambrecht, the general manager of Good News, the conservative Methodist magazine, has welcomed the ruling as “strong affirmation” of the core elements of the Traditional Plan. He recommended those who oppose the plan should begin negotiations to exit the UMC. They could then make a new denomination where they can adopt LGBT inclusive policies.

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