The United States’ second-largest Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, voted Tuesday to strengthen its embrace of marriage between one man and one woman, laid out in the church’s so-called “Traditional Plan.”
In an unexpected turn, the UMC’s delegates decided to reject the “One Church Plan,” which would have permitted individual church leaders and regional annual conference officials to decide whether to ordain and marry LGBTQ members, according to the Associated Press.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, described the denomination’s unexpected vote as historic, because its delegates “voted to uphold biblical standards of sexual morality.”
“Understand what happened,” he explained. “Yesterday, in St. Louis, Missouri, a major mainline Protestant denomination in the United States said ‘no’ to the sexual revolution. It has never happened before. It happened yesterday. We had better pay close attention.”
The “Traditional Plan,” backed by the church’s conservative delegates, was approved by a vote of 438-384. It should be noted 43 percent of the plan’s backers came from overseas, many from African countries.
The Rev. Jerry Kulah of Liberia said “the church in Africa would cease to exist” if the ban on LGBTQ clergy were lifted. He went on to say he “can’t do anything but support the Traditional Plan” because it is “the biblical plan.”
Other ministers in the U.S., like the Rev. Scott Hagan of Bonaire, Georgia, said turning away from the biblical understanding of marriage by allowing each UMC church to take its own theological position on the issue would be “confusing.”
“To have each church — possibly in the same town — offering a different perspective and practice would surely be confusing to the public that comes to the church looking for guidance,” Hagan explained.
Following the vote, the reactions started pouring in online. Here is a sampling of the disparate responses:
To the authors, champions & supporters of the Traditionalist Plan, let me say this clearly: I will never sign a pledge of conformity. You can’t make me. I will not participate in your bigotry, sin & violence. I will continue a ministry of Biblical faithfulness. #UMC #GC2019
— Allen Ewing-Merrill (@RevAllenEM) February 26, 2019
— Phillip Bethancourt (@pbethancourt) February 27, 2019
This intentional infliction of harm to innocent people bears no resemblance to my Christian faith. Allies of the LGBTQ community must stand tall in this fight for human rights. https://t.co/kpvuF28JTI
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) February 26, 2019
“If anyone is so naïve or condescending as to think we would sell our birth right in Jesus Christ for American dollars, then they simply do not know us.”
-African Methodist leader, Dr. Jerry P. Kulah https://t.co/v8W3FpGlD5
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) February 23, 2019
The road to progress, to justice, to equality is always littered with land mines, riddled with obstacles, plagued by setbacks. Do not let men and women blinded by bigotry steal your hope. Fight on. Fight on. Fight on.
— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) February 27, 2019
As Mohler explained, the UMC’s decision to stand by the biblical understanding of marriage is historic. While other mainline Protestant denominations, such as the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) and Episcopal churches, which tend to lean to the left, have embraced same-sex marriage, the UMC has rejected that shift.
Delegates at the Methodist denomination, it should be noted, rejected the leftward move despite support from the church’s top clergy, who pushed hard for the “One Church Plan.”
Following the vote Tuesday, it is likely many of the church’s progressive congregations will leave the UMC. Some, though, who disagree with the denomination’s decision will stay in the church to continue fighting the vote.