The United Methodist Church has fractured over the role of LGBT people in the denomination. At a special conference in St. Louis this week, convened specifically to address divisions over LGBT issues, members voted to toughen prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBT pastors. This proposal, called the One Church Plan, was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected their recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan that affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.
This is a consequential vote for the future of the United Methodist Church: Many progressive churches will now almost certainly consider leaving the denomination. It’s also a reminder that many Christian denominations, including mainline groups like the UMC, are still deeply divided over questions of sexuality and gender identity. While the UMC in the United States is roughly evenly divided between those who identify as traditionalists and those who identify as moderates and liberals, it is also a global organization. Many of the growing communities in the Philippines or countries in Africa are committed to theological teachings against same-sex relationships and marriages.