A major gathering of the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed its teaching on homosexuality, rejecting same-sex unions and the ordination of sexually active homosexuals, prompting predictions that some American congregations who reject this teaching will leave the denomination.
The international gathering, called a Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC, drew over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates to St. Louis Feb. 22-26.
The debate drew out different approaches to the authority of Scripture, marriage, and sexuality, but ultimately left the ecclesial community’s official teaching unchanged.
Scott Jones of the Methodists’ Texas Conference said the decision resolves a longstanding debate and is consistent with the ecclesial community’s teachings on human sexuality, which it has listed in its Book of Discipline since 1972.
That teaching states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination.
“We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth,” said Jones, according to the United Methodist News Service. “I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God’s mission as a diverse body of Christ.”