Today, HRC Foundation released the following statement after the news that The United Methodist Church (UMC), the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, voted in a Special Session of the General Conference to retain language in its official documents that, in effect, prohibits gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from being ordained as ministers and also prohibits Methodist ministers from officiating same-sex marriages:
“Countless LGBTQ Methodists, including young people and their families, are yearning for a welcoming church family. Unfortunately, today The United Methodist Church decided against taking meaningful steps that would include LGBTQ Methodists fully in the life of the church,” said Jay Brown, HRC Foundation’s Acting Senior Vice President. “However, despite this decision, it’s clear that LGBTQ Methodists and allies will continue to push for inclusion -- not in spite of their faith, but because of it. We applaud the work of Reconciling Ministries Network and other LGBTQ Methodists and allies leading this charge.”
The United Methodist Church has 12.7 million members worldwide, including nearly seven million in the U.S. The UMC recognizes the “sacred worth” of all persons, but effectively disallows gay, lesbian and bisexual people from being ordained as ministers, stating in the Book of Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The UMC also barrs ordained ministers from performing same-sex weddings, and bans financial support of LGBTQ-based groups. Transgender people are not barred from ordination on the basis of gender identity and an attempt to do so failed in 2008.
Since the UMC’s 2012 General Conference, many LGBTQ people and allies have been actively pushing for the change. Some also adopted practices of ecclesial disobedience, which ally Bishop Melvin Talbert coined “Biblical Obedience”. The practice urges the LGBTQ faithful and allies to “be the church now” by ignoring discriminatory and unjust church law. This effort led to a dramatic increase in clergy and laity defying church doctrine in an effort to reclaim the Bible's call for justice and inclusion as it applies to marriage and ordination.