Dr. David Grant, a professor of religion at Texas Christian University, said the outcome of the conference will have a ripple effect on the entire church.
“The impact on the United Methodist Church will be great,” Grant said. “Whatever is decided, the chances are that a significant number of United Methodists will depart the denomination.”
Dr. Elizabeth Oldmixon is a political scientist at the University of North Texas who studies the intersections of religion, politics and LGBTQ identities. She said it’s too early to say how deep the effects of the issue will be on the United Methodist Church.
“This is the only issue where the language of schism has been elevated to this level,” Oldmixon said. “I don’t know how widespread it would be but it’ll definitely happen.”
She explained that it will be difficult to cater to everyone’s beliefs with the current plans, even if they are amended.
“If you’re a traditionalist, you don’t like that language will be taken out and changed,” Oldmixon said. “If you’re progressive, you’re not satisfied because there’s nothing new that affirms any other sexualities.”
Bishop Mike Lowry is the resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and oversees more than 300 churches. He noted that whichever plan is voted on will be debated and amended, and whatever decision is made will not take effect until January 2020, at the earliest.
However, he said he stands behind the current practices of the church, which say “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
“I’ve been clear that I do not endorse any of the three plans,” Lowry said. “I support the current stance of the United Methodist Church. Our understanding that love is for all, and Christian marriage is between a man and a woman.”