United Methodist Church session in 2019 will focus on LGBT inclusion.
Evolution in sexuality has led some churches to question whether to include or exclude people from the LGBTQIA from their congregations and clergies.
One of these churches is the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant Christian denomination in the world. The church at present struggles with the question as to whether or not LGBTQIA members should be allowed to serve in the clergy. The decision to solve this major controversy within the church will be handled by the church’s law-making wing which is known as the Judicial Council. The council has tasked a commission called the Commission on a Way Forward with presenting arguments for and against the issue before it makes its decision. The committee is made up of 32 Bishop Methodist appointees.
Following the appointment of a lesbian bishop to head the Mountain Sky Area of the U.S. (spanning the states of Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming), members from both sides of the issue have expressed the desire to state their opinions. Necessity, therefore, has led the General Conference, an assembly of the church’s leader from around the globe, to set a date when all these cases can be heard in one of its special sessions. The special session will be held on February 23 to 26, 2019 in St. Louis and will concentrate on the issue of LGBT inclusion in the church, an issue the church had procrastinated on in 2016.
The various groups within the church have different viewpoints on the contentious debate, and there is the threat of a religious schism if they cannot reach an agreement. Matt Berryman, the executive director of the Commission on a Way Forward, said he is looking forward to the full integration of the LGBT community in the church. After all, some of the congregants are practicing unorthodox couples, why shouldn't the clergy be allowed the same freedom? Other reasons that have been issued for inclusion include the attraction of new younger members into the church, who are supposedly put off by the exclusion mandate in place now, and moving with the times.
— Quardricos Driskell (@q_driskell4) April 26, 2017
Some conferences of the church such as the Desert Southwest Conference started demanding full inclusion in 2016 and have since then not ‘discriminated’ anyone based on their gender and sexuality. The California-Pacific chapter even called for the Judicial Council to make a public declaration accepting LGBT practitioners into the church.
On the other hand, Methodist groups such as the United Methodist Institution on Religion and Democracy oppose full inclusion. The group is in charge of ensuring the church retains its fundamental Christian values. The executive director of the institution John Lomperis said he hoped the debate did not lead to a division in the church. He worried the 2019 special session might be put off again due to significant forces of disagreement in the church.