Local branches of the United Methodist Church are reacting to a landmark vote.
On Feb. 26, representatives of the UMC voted 438 to 384 in favor of the “Traditional Plan,” which continues the ban on same-sex marriage weddings and LGBTQ clergy members.
The General Conference vote brought leaders of the UMC together in St. Louis for a special session. Typically held every four years, leaders met two years early to vote on what has become an important issue for churches around the world.
“Some are pleased with the outcome and others are very disappointed in the outcome and there’s some grief about that, especially among the LGBTQ community which is strongly within our church,” said Ken Carter, Bishop of the Florida Conference and President of the Global Council of Bishops. “We are a very diverse church with very real and strong conviction on both sides of understanding human sexuality.”
The Traditional Plan won’t go into full effect until next year.
With the UMC representing the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the vote will affect more than 32,000 congregations. There is a possibility that some will leave after the vote outcome.
“We’ve encouraged our pastors and leaders to reach out to persons who had a strong interest in the vote and just listen,” said Carter. “We’re not into blaming and shaming people, it’s about family and relationships and how we can be there for each other.”
Other proposals voted on included the “One Church Plan,” which would have allowed members to find churches that aligned best with their beliefs. Another option presented was considered more ‘progressive’ and would have removed a great amount of current prohibitions.
The favored Traditional Plan will strengthen the current language and prohibitions on same-sex marriage.
According to Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor of the Hyde Park Methodist Church, the results of the vote will not change what the UMC stands for.
“The central part of what it means to be United Methodist is to be people of love,” said deVega.