Same-sex marriage and the acceptance of LGBTQ clergy are issues that many religions are dealing with today. Now, the United Methodist Church is holding a special session to vote on a proposal regarding those subjects.
According to Bishop Ken Carter, Bishop of the Florida Conference and President of the Global Council of Bishops, the goal is to find a way to “honor the different contexts” -- in other words, finding a way to honor the beliefs of both traditional and progressive churchgoers.
While some may focus on the possible divide that the results of the vote could cause, Carter said there is hope for the unity it could bring the church in the long run.
“We had come to an impasse around our understanding of LGBTQ identity and the mission of unity of the church,” said Carter. “Instead of having an up and down political vote we chose to have a three-year process where we studied, had dialogue and listened to people’s experiences.”
When they meet in St. Louis later this month, the voters will decide on one of several proposals. The “One Church Plan” would allow members to find churches that align best with their beliefs. The “Traditional Plan” would strengthen current language that prohibits same-sex marriage. Another proposal is referred to as more progressive and would remove a great amount of current prohibitions.
“Some of the plans really try to help us to allow for contextualization which means that people can be guided by their conscience,” said Carter. “Nothing is imposed on a traditional person. They can have traditional practices at a local level, but then areas that are more progressive can be open to having LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage.”
With the UMC representing the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the landmark vote will affect more than 32,000 congregations, with some possibly leaving the church depending on the outcome of the vote.
“There are a lot of people who are motivated by the unity for the sake of the good churches do,” said Carter.
While whatever is decided won’t go into effect until 2020, churches would immediately begin the long acclimation process as soon as the vote is complete.