Methodical Separation

United Methodist Church potentially split after voting against LGBTQ clergy.

In 1054 A.D., the Christian religion split into two major sects from the east and west; the Greek Orthodox Church in the east and the Roman Catholic Church to the west. The Greek Orthodox Church became known as protestant and a denomination of Christianity, as they were separate from the Roman Catholics and practiced different ideals. As time went on, more denominations and protestant churches formed, one of which is the United Methodists Church, a global denomination with churches from the United States to South Korea. A major point of Methodism is in their church’s holy scripture, the Book of Discipline, which states that all people have “sacred worth.” Today, the United Methodist Church (UMC) is facing a possible separation over a vote regarding LGBTQ clergy and the allowance of same-sex marriage.

In February, the denomination held a General Conference in St. Louis and voted in favor to reinforce these rules against LGBTQ, 438 to 384. This vote was the “Traditional” Plan, where the church would maintain its conservative views on the denomination and it would reject two plans. The first would be the “One Church” Plan, which would apply more progressive values on to the entire church and allow local churches to decide on the matter, like the federal government allowing state governments to decide on an issue. The second plan was known as the “Simple” Plan, and it would erase any writing in the Book of Discipline forbidding LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage. Of course, both of these plans were refused as the church’s stance on the matter was affirmed as they voted on and for the “Traditional” plan. Bishop Scott Jones of the UMC gave a statement explaining the decision.

“This decision resolves a longstanding debate about how we can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Jones’ statement says. “Our views on same-sex marriage have not changed. We will continue to welcome [LGBTQ] persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth.”

As stated before, an important part of Methodism is the idea that each individual has some sort of “sacred worth,” yet with the recently given legislation within the church and this legislation passing, it seems that Methodists believe this idea does not apply to members of LGBTQ. It states that it disagrees with the “practice of homosexuality” calling it “incompatible” with the more common teachings of Christianity. With many openly LGBTQ clergy in mind, this seems to threaten the entire church with an international split.

“We’re better together than we are separated and fragmented, but I do understand that the forces that would separate us are very powerful,” Kenneth Carter, the Floridan president of the Council of Bishops, stated. “We’ve tried to remain together as a global body. The challenge is simply that there are some nations where homosexuality is taboo.”

Also at the conference were some members from UMC churches located in Africa, one of which being Liberian Reverend Jerry Kulah.

“Today the church in Africa is growing in leaps and bounds because we are committed to biblical Christianity,” Kulah said. “You cannot be performing Christianity differently in America and Africa and suggest that we are one church.”

The existing LGBTQ clergy or supporters are criticizing the vote not only because it was in favor of the Traditional Plan, but because it rejected the One Church Plan.

“The United Methodist Church’s special General Conference failed Tuesday to love [LGBTQ] people, recognize their gifts in the church, maintain our unity in the midst of diversity, and to live out our Gospel mandate to seek justice and pursue peace,” said in a statement from General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe of the UMC. “We worship a fully-inclusive, justice-seeking God.”

One of these criticizing LGBTQ clergies of UMC is Jordan Harris, an openly gay United Methodist pastor in Somerville, Massachusetts. When Harris was young, according to CNN, his family was homeless until they were helped by a church. This act inspired him to become a pastor in an attempt to help others as the church has helped him. After over eight years of his career and devotion to the church, he could be seeing ordination, becoming a priest; however, due to the new legislation of the Traditional Plan and marrying his fiance, he fears for his career as he could potentially be removed from the ministry.

“I feel like someone has died,” Harris said to CNN, in response to the vote.

Harris was hoping on the UMC voting on the Simple Plan, but the Traditional Plan was favored over it.

“It felt like we finally got to a place where we were at least able to have constructive dialogue,” he said, feeling as though the members in favor of the Traditional Plan refused to consider the opposition or to compromise. “It’s hard to be in this place where you feel like things are falling apart all around you.”