The decision is expected to cause an even deeper rift between those who support the LGBT community and those who don’t.
Conservatives within the United Methodist Church (UMC) won their way with a 438-384 vote against progressive members on the issue of lifting the embargo on LGBT clergy and gay marriage. The special session of UMC’s General Conference in St. Louis witnessed delegates voting not to ditch the conservative Traditional Plan in favor of the inclusive and new One Church Plan. The former hardens the church’s existing prohibitions. The swap at first was 75 votes short- 374 and 449. The 438-384 voter numbers came later as many liberal members disrupted the meeting to protest.
The UMC, regarded as the second-biggest Protestant denomination in the United States, will now likely suffer a massive number of defections after the victory of the Traditional Plan. It is expected there will be acts of defiance too. Emotions ran high among the delegates during the final day of the church's meeting. Several LGBT inclusion supporters were in tears, and some expressed their anger when delegates, at the middle of the session, defeated yet another proposal which would have allowed local and regional church bodies to take independent decisions related to gay-friendly policies.
Opponents of the Traditional Plan tried many strategies to make the One Church Plan win. A delegate even asked for an investigation into the chance that “vote-buying” tactics were employed in the conference.
The Traditional Plan achieved success due to a conservative alliance between UMC United States members and those coming from Africa and the rest of the world. Approximately 43 percent of total delegates flew in from international destinations. They mostly supported LGBT bans. According to Reverend Jerry Kulah, a delegate from Liberia, the easing of bans will delete the church’s presence in the African continent. He said African delegates have no choice but to support the Traditional Plan as it is the Biblical one.
The UMC has failed, utterly and finally, at living out radical inclusion. No one knows what comes next, but it’s hard to imagine reconciling congregations sticking around. https://t.co/9Uvp4C7f7H
— Audra J. Wolfe (@ColdWarScience) February 26, 2019
It was clear the votes have split the church. Reverend Thomas Berlin, a pastor from Herndon, Virginia, said the introduction of this “virus” into the UMC would effectively destroy it. He predicted that several regional bodies and churchgoers would exit the church and a few others would “stay and fight.”