At their General Conference (GC) this month, United Methodists agreed to table the issue of human sexuality until a special commission makes its recommendations in the next two to four years. But LGBTQ activists don’t want to wait that long. They are pushing bishops to officially stop disciplining rogue clergy in the United Methodist Church (UMC) during the interim.
During GC in Portland, Ore., delegates agreed to forming the special commission on May 18 at the bequest of the UMC’s Council of Bishops (COB). That was despite widespread support to retain the biblical understanding of the denomination that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” But the delegates decision wasn’t enough for the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), a major pro-LGBTQ coalition active in the UMC.
Following close in the wake of the vote, RMN started a petition asking the COB to “immediately halt all legislated harm towards LGBTQ people” before even forming a commission, much less before that commission deliberates or makes its recommendations. RMN alleged that the UMC has been guilty of “discriminating against LGBTQ persons and punishing allies” for the past 44 years.
RMN specifically called for the COB to suspend the denomination’s rules “barring qualified candidates for the ministry and active LGBTQ clergy, prohibiting same-sex marriages within UMC sanctuaries and forbidding UMC clergy from officiating same-sex weddings.” These rules “contradict God’s love and justice,” according to coalition.
The RMN-sponsored petition had 5,793 signatures at the time of this writing. RMN said it will send the following letter to the COB:
We demand that the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church (UMC) immediately halt all legislated harm towards LGBTQ people and their allies as it moves expeditiously on the work of the special commission on “human sexuality.” This includes barring qualified candidates for the ministry, prohibiting same-sex marriages within UMC sanctuaries and forbidding UMC clergy from officiating same-sex weddings.
Punishment of LGBTQ persons and allies is at the heart of the growing divide in The United Methodist Church. Immediately stopping all such actions is the only way to ensure the work of the special commission has credibility and can work towards a solution or set of solutions that will finally mend The UMC.