The United Methodist Church—the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S. and the third largest U.S. denomination overall—ends its quadrennial general convention in Portland, Ore., later this week. As the Washington Post reports:
The focus has been on whether to change or keep the denomination’s rejection of homosexuality. But a broader question is up for a vote: What do the 13 million Methodists from Africa to Asia to America have in common? …
Delegates from dozens of countries will consider the possibility of full inclusion of LGBT people, the “agree to disagree” option, whether gay people can be ordained, the question of officiating at same-sex weddings, whether such weddings can be held in Methodist churches and whether the current Book of Discipline wording should remain.
Roughly half of the denomination’s members are from the U.S., and while it appears a majority of North American conference delegates support LGBT inclusion, 30% of the delegates come from Africa, “where Methodists tend to be much more conservative on issues of homosexuality,” the Post reports.
Of the three options (1) maintain the anti-LGBT prohibitions, (2) embrace LGBT inclusion, and (3) let difference countries/regions adopt their own policies, the last may be the best that can be hoped for, and indeed the right solution for a church so at odds with itself. But there’s a strong likelihood that the anti-gay contingents, with some support from conservative U.S. Methodists, will keep the prohibitions in place. We’ll see.
The conference is also dealing with four measures proposing the church divest its investments from Israeli companies, and last January the church’s pension fund removed five Israeli banks from its portfolio. If the conference maintains its anti-gay policies and extends its anti-Israeli policies, then U.S. members should seriously consider whether affiliating with a global church that shuns the light and embraces bigotry is where they wish to celebrate the Lord.
Update. They punted, voting to delay all consideration of gay-related proposals via a commission that will spend at least two years reviewing policy on the subject:
But global membership is moving in the conservative direction, and during the Conference the progressives were watching their many proposed measures advancing equality get voted down in subcommittees, while conservatives’ efforts to strengthen the rules were advancing. …
Yet several conservative United Methodists from Africa spoke Wednesday from the floor, demanding their chance to vote on measures aimed at shoring up the ban on gay life. Conservatives in the church have been pushing for trials and other punishment for United Methodist pastors who come out or who officiate at same-sex weddings.
The vote Wednesday night in Portland, Ore., came one day after news leaked that bishops and various leaders were meeting over a plan to separate.
I wish the U.S. church had voted to leave.
More. On a positive note, the anti-Israeli propositions also lost. I should have clarified that the anti-Israeli push came predominantly from U.S. progressives, who also were among those supporting the gay-inclusive resolutions—the same conundrum we see with the Presbyterians and other denominations where the progressive left is at odds with the conservative right, and fie on both.