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United? Methodist Church

United Methodists reject same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian ministers

The United Methodist Church nearly broke apart over the issue of same-sex marriage and ordaining LGBTQ ministers at its 2016 meeting, so it pushed off the issue to a special General Conference in St. Louis this week. Church leaders recommended a proposal called the One Church Plan, which would allow individual churches and regional conferences to decide about LGBTQ issues, but on Monday the delegates in St. Louis rejected that plan and on Tuesday, in a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent, they adopted the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirms the bans on gay marriage and ministry for "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" and ramps up enforcement.

The narrow approval of the Traditional Plan is expected to prompt an exodus of churches in the U.S, where about 60 percent of United Methodists believe homosexuality should be accepted. The United Methodist Church is a global denomination of 12.5 million, with 7 million in the U.S., and the 43 percent of General Conference delegates from other countries held more conservative views on homosexuality. Thirty percent of delegates were from Africa, where United Methodist growth is strong and homosexuality often illegal or taboo, and the coalition of African, Russian, Filipino, and conservative American delegates held sway in St. Louis.

The United Methodist Church — America's largest mainline Protestant denomination — is the latest to tackle gay marriage and ordination. The Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church USA have both embraced gay-friendly practices and lost conservative congreations. More progressive UMC churches and conferences are now weighing their options. But United Methodists have one of the oldest denominations in the U.S., with a median age of 57, and some Methodists are concerned this vote will lead to further decline. "The United Methodist Church will very soon lose an entire generation of leadership in the United States," warned Kimberly Ingram, speaking for Methodist seminaries and theological schools.

Some parts of the Traditional Plan were ruled to violate the UMC's constitution, and the church's Judicial Council will address those issues in April.