United Methodists Strike Ban on LGBTQ Clergy

After years of disagreement and the departure of thousands of churches, the change passed without debate.

United Methodists meeting for their top legislative assembly Wednesday overwhelmingly overturned a measure that barred gay clergy from ordination in the denomination, a historic step for the nation’s second-largest Protestant body.

With a simple vote call and without debate, delegates to the General Conference removed the ban on the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”—a prohibition that dates to 1984.

With that vote, the worldwide denomination of some 11 million members joins the majority of liberal Protestant denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ, which also ordain LGBTQ clergy.

“We’ve singled out one group for discrimination for 52 years,” said Ken Carter, bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference. “And we’ve done that on an understanding of homosexuality whose origins came when it was understood to be a disease and a disorder.”

That, he said, has now changed. “Increasingly,” he said, “people see that God’s spirit is in gay and lesbian people.”

The morning vote on the motion was part of a larger series of calendar items voted on in bulk. They also included a motion barring superintendents, or overseers, from punishing clergy for performing a same-sex wedding or prohibiting a church from holding a same-sex wedding, though the actual ban on same-sex weddings in churches has yet to be voted on.

The vote on the calendar items was 692–51, or about 93 percent in favor.

After the vote, LGBTQ delegates and their allies gathered on the floor of the Charlotte Convention Center to sing, hug, cheer, and shed tears. …

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