Methodists Are Now OK With LGBTQ Clergy

Ban on 'self-avowed practicing homosexuals' is overwhelmingly shot down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 1, 2024 10:21 AM CDT
Methodists Are Now OK With LGBTQ Clergy
Michigan Bishop David Bard presides over a session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church on Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.   (AP Photo/Peter Smith)

United Methodist delegates repealed their church's long-standing ban on LGBTQ clergy with no debate on Wednesday, removing a rule forbidding "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from being ordained or appointed as ministers. Delegates voted 692-51 at their General Conference—the first such legislative gathering in five years, reports the AP. That overwhelming margin contrasts sharply with the decades of controversy around the issue. Past conferences of the United Methodist Church had steadily reinforced the ban and related penalties amid debate and protests, but many of the conservatives who'd previously upheld the ban have left the denomination in recent years, and this General Conference has moved in a solidly progressive direction.

Applause broke out in parts of the convention hall Wednesday after the vote. A group of observers from LGBTQ advocacy groups embraced, some in tears. "Thanks be to God," said one. The change doesn't mandate or even explicitly affirm LGBTQ clergy, but it means the church no longer forbids them. It's possible that the change will mainly apply to US churches, since United Methodist bodies in other countries, such as in Africa, have the right to impose the rules for their own regions. The measure takes effect immediately upon the conclusion of the General Conference, scheduled for Friday. The consensus was so overwhelming that it was rolled into a "consent calendar," a package of normally noncontroversial measures that are bundled into a single vote to save time.

Also approved was a measure that forbids district superintendents—a regional administrator—from penalizing clergy for either performing a same-sex wedding or for refraining from performing one. It also forbids superintendents from forbidding a church from hosting a same-sex wedding, or requiring it to. Delegates are also expected to vote as soon as today on whether to replace their existing official "Social Principles" with a new document that no longer calls the "practice of homosexuality ... incompatible with Christian teaching" and that now defines marriage as between "two people of faith" rather than between a man and a woman. (More United Methodists stories.)

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