United Methodist delegates vote to end ban on gay clergy and same-sex marriage. Kentucky Lantern

After decades of intense debate that led to about half of their churches in Kentucky leaving the denomination, United Methodist delegates voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to no longer ban gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

The delegate vote at the United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, NC, was 692-51. The conference was the church’s first legislative meeting in five years.

United Methodist Church in Kentucky is losing congregations due to disagreements over LGBTQ inclusion

The historic vote overturned the church’s 1984 ban on ordaining or appointing clergy who identify as “self-confessed practicing homosexuals.”

Another measure gaining approval would ban district superintendents – regional administrators – from penalizing clergy for performing a same-sex wedding or refusing to perform one.

Regulators also cannot prohibit a church from hosting a same-sex wedding.

The changes to ordination will take effect immediately after the General Conference ends on Friday, while the changes to marriage policy permissions will take effect on January 1, 2025.

The church news agency reported that “delegates and observers applauded after the vote. Many embraced and more than a few cried, in a massive outpouring of joy for those who had been pushing, some for decades, to make the United Methodist Church fully inclusive.”

Bishop Leonard Fairley (photo submitted)

In a Facebook Live video on the Kentucky Conference website, Kentucky Bishop Leonard Fairley said he knows “some are disappointed and some are rejoicing. But I pray that this is the way that we can continue to have a seat at the table and continue to work together and do the ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ.”

Fairley added: “Consultation with district superintendents, bishops and the local church has always been important and that does not change with this decision.”

He appeared in the video with two of the five clergy delegates from Kentucky: Tom Grieb, a retired pastor from Goshen, and Tami Coleman, pastor of Hanson United Methodist Church near Madisonville.

According to the Kentucky Conference, the other clergy delegates from Kentucky were Andrew Singh, pastor of Erlanger United Methodist Church; Iosmar Alvarez, senior pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Louisville, and David Grout, retired pastor and formerly of Florence Methodist Church.

Lay delegates from Kentucky were listed on the website as Mark Stallions, president and CEO of Owen Electric Cooperatives; John R. Denham, beef farmer in Mason County; Michael Watts, member of Shelbyville United Methodist; Elaine Daugherty, member of Morgantown United Methodist Church, and Linda Underwood King, retired teacher who is a member of Christ Church in Louisville.

Cathy Bruce, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Conference, said delegates voted by secret ballot and she did not think it was appropriate to ask them how they voted.

The LGBTQ issue has certainly been controversial.

During a special session of the United Methodist General Conference in 2019, delegates made it possible for a church to withdraw for reasons of conscience around issues of human sexuality and keep its property after meeting certain financial obligations.

The disaffiliation process within the United Methodist Church ended on December 31.

The Kentucky United Methodist Conference had 749 churches in 2019, the Lewis Center for Church in Washington, D.C., said in a report released earlier this year.

Of those, 366 – or 49 percent – ​​left the church, the report said.

Among conferences across the country that recorded more than 30 percent of church disaffiliations, Kentucky ranked fourth, according to the report. It followed Northwest Texas with 81 percent exclusions, North Alabama with 51 percent and Texas with 50 percent. Indiana had 30 percent disaffiliations.

The Lewis Center report did not analyze the financial impact of lost memberships on the conferences, but said it is “expected to vary depending on the percentage and size of congregations lost. Of course, the impact is not felt equally at all conferences. Some experience minimal impact, while others require major adjustments.”

Asked about any actions the Kentucky Conference may take, such as reducing the number of superintendents, spokeswoman Bruce said the conference now has five superintendents. She did not say how many people were at the conference a year ago.

“I wouldn’t say it was a cost-cutting measure. It’s just how the arrangements have gone this year,” she said.

Mike Powers

She noted that the Lexington District and the Northern Kentucky District are served by the same superintendent and that Kevin Burney, the conference’s director of ministerial services, will serve as superintendent for the Heartland District in the Louisville area beginning July 1, with retention of his position. current position.

Kentucky Methodists are counting the congregations lost to the LGBTQ divide as a conservative alternative grows

The New York Times reported that the denomination’s policy changes could lead to the departure of some international churches, especially in Africa, where more conservative sexual values ​​prevail and where homosexual activity has been criminalized in some countries.

Before its dissolution, the United Methodist denomination was the third largest in the United States, with 5.4 million members and a presence in nearly every county. It has about 4.6 million members in other countries, mainly in Africa.

Mike Powers, a retired United Methodist pastor in Lexington, is helping with efforts in Kentucky to attract unaffiliated churches to the two-year-old Global Methodists denomination.

He said Wednesday that more than 100 of Kentucky’s unaffiliated churches have been approved, applied or are signing up with Global Methodists. Its doctrine does not recognize same-sex marriages or the ordination of openly gay Methodists.

The Global Methodist Church, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said in a news release that it was aware of the vote at the United Methodist General Conference, but that it operates independently of other denominations and has no affiliation with any of the United Methodist decisions and that she doesn’t either. wish to comment on the actions of other religious organizations.

It added that it has more than 4,500 members worldwide.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign based in Louisville, which advocates for gay rights in Kentucky, said of the United Methodist vote: “It’s such a wonderful step in the right direction in the tenets of the faith.”