United Methodist Church lifts 40-year ban on gay Clergy, LGBT weddings

Originally published in CBN News

The United Methodist Church has lifted a nearly 40-year-old on ordaining gay clergy – a major shift in one of the largest denominations in the US.

On the heels of a massive exodus from the increasingly liberal denomination, the remaining leaders approved the pro-LGBT move at their annual conference Wednesday and formally enshrined a shift that was years in the making. 

In a 692-51 vote, church leaders passed several rules removing the ban on gay clergy and the penalties for holding same-sex marriages, according to United Methodist News Service (UM News).

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Progressive congregations have long been pushing to become more accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, despite biblical prohibitions, leading to deeper divisions and departures from the denomination.

Many conservative congregations have already left the denomination because, despite the UMC forbidding the marriage or ordination of practicing homosexuals, some churches and clergy have defied those bans in recent years. 

According to the UM News, over the last five years, 7 660 congregations, or about 25% of the group’s US churches have completed the required steps and withdrawn from the denomination.

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The UMC put into place a temporary exit policy that expired on December 31 last year. Under paragraph 2553 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, congregations were given a five-year window to disaffiliate. 

Conservative congregations have voiced that LGBT inclusion has long distracted the church from its mission of “putting Jesus first.”

“The issues of human sexuality, for too long, have distracted and divided the United Methodist denomination and, in turn, our local church,” Rev Dr Robert Couch, a former pastor of Christ United Methodist Church told WKRG-TV

The church disaffiliated from the denomination’s Alabama-West Florida Conference last year and moved forward with its new name, Christ United. 

“Christ United no longer wants to be distracted and divided by this ongoing controversy, so we requested to disaffiliate from the denomination,” Couch said. “We plan to remain an independent congregation for one to two years as we discern any potential future affiliation with other denominations or networks.”

Liam Adams, religion reporter for The Tennessean, has covered the UMC schism extensively and predicted the denomination’s move to embrace LGBT lifestyles. 

“This year is the likeliest change that (LGBT) restrictions will be removed,” Adams explained. “(It) is largely due to the exodus of traditionalist churches and many of them joining a new breakaway denomination called the Global Methodist Church.”

UM News announced “there are more potential changes to come.”

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