The United Methodist Church has dealt with internal strife over LGBTQ rights for decades. This week, members and leaders of the denomination will meet in St. Louis to seek a long-awaited resolution.
Currently, the denomination bans “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination and instructs individual churches and pastors not to take part in same-sex weddings. At the special session of General Conference on sexuality, delegates will consider changing these policies and try to avoid denominational schism.
If you’re not able to be in St. Louis, there are still ways to follow the big event, taking place from Feb. 23-26. Watch the livestream at umc.org/live or follow the hashtag #GC2019. The general email for press inquiries is [email protected].
Regardless of your travel plans, you can use these articles, surveys and sources to strengthen your coverage of this important moment in the life of the United Methodist Church.
- Read “Kenyan United Methodists oppose allowing LGBT clergy, pray for church unity worldwide” from Religion News Service on Feb. 18, 2019.
- Read “Historic United Methodist church sees ‘hopeful’ time for LGBTQ Christians” from Religion News Service on Feb. 15, 2019.
- Read “Acadiana pastors say members on all sides of same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy debate” from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser from Feb. 15, 2019.
- Read “A flourishing United Methodist church considers a way out” from Religion News Service on Feb. 13, 2019.
- Watch “Perspectives on a Way Forward,” a group debate of the plans up for discussion at the special session of general conference, from United Methodist News Service on Feb. 6, 2019.
- Read “United Methodists face vote on LGBTQ issues. Will it rip the church apart?” from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Feb. 1, 2019.
- Read “United Methodist court filings detail proposals for averting schism on sexuality” from Religion News Service on July 18, 2018.
- Read “United Methodists to hold special session on LGBTQ inclusion in 2019” from Religion News Service on April 25, 2017.
- Read “Methodists postpone decisions on sexuality, marriage” from World magazine on May 19, 2016.
- Read “Defying church ban, dozens of Methodist clergy come out as gay and lesbian” from CNN on May 9, 2016.
- Read “Methodists call themselves the ‘church of the big tent.’ Here’s why one minister is camping outside” from The Washington Post on April 5, 2016.
- Read “Will same-sex marriage split the United Methodist Church?” from Religion & Politics on June 2, 2015.
Plans for the future
Conference delegates will consider five plans for the future during the four-day meeting. They’ll first vote on which option to prioritize and then debate and vote on adjustments to each plan, as time allows. There’s no guarantee that the special session of General Conference will end with a clear path forward, but that is the hope.
- One Church: This plan, supported by a majority of United Methodist bishops, would remove language calling homosexuality a sin from the denomination’s governing documents. Individual conferences would decide whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy and individual pastors and churches would decide whether to participate in same-sex weddings.
- Traditional: This plan would reaffirm the United Methodist Church’s current teachings on homosexuality and outline mandatory penalties for those who do not obey those teachings.
- Modified Traditional: This plan builds on the Traditional plan. It would increase the penalties for bishops who fail to uphold denominational teachings on homosexuality and offer $200,000 grants to regional bodies that vote to leave the denomination because of LGBTQ rights.
- Connectional Conference: This plan would reorganize the United Methodist Church, sorting churches by their stance on homosexuality instead of their geographic location.
- Simple: This plan would remove language about homosexuality being incompatible with Christian teaching from the denomination’s governing documents and offer no conscience protections for those opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
- Read “What do United Methodists really believe?” from United Methodist News Service on Feb. 12, 2019.
- Read “Wedding Cakes, Same-Sex Marriage and the Future of LGBT Rights in America” from PRRI on Aug. 2, 2018.
- Read “Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues: Findings From the 2017 American Values Atlas” from PRRI on May 1, 2018.
- Read “Gay Marriage Around the World” from Pew Research Center on Aug. 8, 2017.
The Rev. Izzy Alvaran is western regional organizer for Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization that supports LGBTQ people of faith. He began his career in the Philippines, where he is an ordained elder in the Philippines annual conference of the United Methodist Church. He now lives in San Francisco.
The Rev. Sangwon Doh is senior pastor of Calvary Korean United Methodist Church in East Brunswick, N.J.
The Rev. Mark Holland is executive director of Mainstream UMC, an organization that’s advocating for the United Methodist Church to allow individual pastors and churches to decide whether to participate in same-sex weddings.
The Rev. Jeff Kersey is senior pastor of Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church, which will consider leaving the denomination if it adopts more liberal policies on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan is president of Claremont School of Theology, where he teaches Hebrew Bible and Asian-American hermeneutics. He began his career in Malaysia, where he served as an associate pastor in the United Methodist Church.
John Lomperis is the United Methodist action director for the Institute on Religion & Democracy, which supports renewal and orthodoxy within American Christian denominations. He is an expert on liberal and conservative groups within the United Methodist Church.
Patricia L. Miller is executive director of the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church, a theologically conservative organization. She served on the Commission on a Way Forward, the group tasked with brainstorming potential resolutions to the decades-long debate over LGBTQ ordination and same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Maidstone Mulenga serves as director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops.
Bishop Karen Oliveto leads the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. She’s the denomination’s first openly lesbian bishop.
The Rev. Rob Renfroe is pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. He’s also president of Good News, an organization advocating for the denomination to keep its current policies on human sexuality.
The Rev. Chris Ritter is the directing pastor of Geneseo First United Methodist Church in Geneseo, Ill. He served as a clergy delegate to General Conference in 2016 and the special session on sexuality.
The Rev. Alex da Silva Souto is pastor of New Milford United Methodist Church in New Milford, Conn. He is one of the authors of the Simple Plan, a plan for the future of the United Methodist Church that would involve eliminating all restrictions on LGBTQ clergy and church members from the denomination’s guiding documents. He’s also the co-convener of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus.
The Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller is an assistant professor of New Testament at Drew University Theological School and a United Methodist pastor.
The Rev. Randy Wall is senior pastor of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Mount Holly, N.C. He’s also the chairman of United Methodist Rural Advocates, a group that advocates on behalf of rural and small-membership churches within the denomination.
Bishop Christian Alsted leads the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. He also serves on the board of trustees for Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary.
Bishop Chong Chin Chung leads the Methodist Church in Singapore, overseeing nearly 50 churches and 15 schools.
Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco leads the Manila Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa is the resident bishop of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church. He previously taught pastoral theology at Africa University.
Bishop David Kekumba Yemba is a school administrator and scholar who previously led the Central Congo annual conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as one of the moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward, a small group of Methodists tasked with preparing the plans considered at the special session of General Conference on sexuality.