The United Methodist Church is being encouraged to include LGBTQ persons as clergy and also in marriage ceremonies through rallies held this weekend at Asbury United Methodist Church, Prairie Village, Kansas.
The Rev. Mark Holland, executive director of Mainstream UMC, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ inclusion, said the United Methodists’ General Conference will hold a special session on the topic in February 2019.
Dr. Holland, who is also the former Kansas City, Kansas mayor, said that the United Methodist Church doesn’t currently allow the ordination and marriage of homosexual and LGBTQ persons. Now proposed is a change that would allow each conference to decide whether it wanted to ordain LGBTQ persons or perform gay marriages.
“The United Methodist Church is the largest church in the world that ordains women and not ordains gay and lesbian pastors,” Dr. Holland said. He noted that other denominations, such as Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Evangelical Lutherans, have decided to include LGBTQ ordination and marriage.
At the United Methodists’ last General Conference, Dr. Holland made a motion asking the bishops to come up with a plan on how to move forward on this issue. The bishops formed a committee that recommended allowing for regional differences, Dr. Holland said. Those conferences within the church that would like to ordain LGBTQ persons and perform gay weddings would be able to, under the proposal, and those conferences that do not want to would be able to continue as they are.
The rally held Friday and Saturday at Asbury church will support the plan to allow for regional differences, Dr. Holland said.
“Allowing for different practices is rooted in the Book of Acts,” Dr. Holland said, referring to Acts 15, where different practices were allowed concerning the issue of circumcision of Gentiles.
Dr. Holland, who has been a delegate to the General Conference for 20 years, co-founded Mainstream UMC in July, with the focus on organizing a campaign to pass the resolution in February.
He said there was a lot of energy in the church supporting this effort. “The U.S. church has already adopted this,” he said.
About 42 percent of the delegates are located outside the United States, some in countries where homosexuality is illegal, he noted. There are 12 million members worldwide, and 864 delegates will come together to make a decision on this issue.
With the major cultural differences within the church, this proposal would allow for regional differences and would allow for churches here to go forward in this direction, he said. If it was a United States-only vote, it probably would have changed years ago, he added.
“We’re finding in our church similar divisions to what we have in our country,” Dr. Holland said. Urban and suburban areas have a lot of support for LGBTQ ordination and gay marriage, while rural areas do not. Some churches are reflecting similar divisions, he added.
He noted he was seeing the same urban-rural split on issues in the church as was seen in the election earlier this week.
Dr. Holland said that starting in 1972, restrictive language has been added to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
Worship events during the two-day rally are planned at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, and at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Asbury, 5400 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, Kansas. For more information, see www.visitasbury.org.