Questions for Conservative Churches Ahead of the Proposed UMC Split
The United Methodist Church has once again become a hot topic in the Evangelical world due to its very public battle over the issue of LGBTQ+ acceptance and inclusion.
Last year, the UMC voted to maintain its traditional stance on sexual ethics, affirming the position that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, and that sex should only be had within the context of heterosexual marriage. Additionally, this denominational vote decided that sexually active LGBTQ+ clergy, regardless of their marital status, would not be allowed to serve under the United Methodist Church.
This decision truly highlighted the growing division that exists not only within the UMC, but also within much of the wider Church today around its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.
Now, it looks like the United Methodist Church is moving towards a schism, or a split, over LGBTQ+ inclusion which would divide the denomination into two sides; one side being affirming of same-sex marriage and one side being non-affirming.
While a church split is never joyous, this move seems to be increasingly necessary for those within the UMC who believe that inclusion is an integral part of their Christian faith, and it seems especially necessary for LGBTQ+ people who want their marriages recognized and their ministries and membership to be supported.
The impending schism leaves the UMC, as well as other conservative faith traditions with some difficult questions going forward regarding the inclusion and acceptance of queer people. While it is unlikely that most traditional denominations will flip their positions on same-sex marriage, it is imperative that these sections of the Church consider the ways that their theological positions may limit their reach, and more devastatingly, further isolate members of the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.
If conservative churches hold to their traditional stance, opposing same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ inclusion in ministry, they will have to answer the following questions if they hope to serve the queer community in some capacity:
- How will conservative churches welcome LGBTQ+ married couples who are seeking a faith community? Will they welcome and support LGBTQ+ married couples in light of their traditional perspective?
- If they welcome LGBTQ+ people in their communities, in what capacity are they welcome in their church? What caveats are in place that may hinder LGBTQ+ people from being included?
- How will they combat the systemic oppression of queer people worldwide? How will they tackle issues that matter to the queer community such as anti-trans violence and LGBTQ+ youth homelessness?
- Will they choose to be transparent about their responses to these questions?
Remaining faithful to a traditional perspective on sexuality, marriage, and sexual ethics does not necessarily disqualify religious communities from fighting for the LGBTQ+ community in other areas, but it certainly presents unique challenges to genuine allyship.
A denomination that chooses to double down against same-sex marriage and the inclusion of queer people in ministry must be prepared to answer these questions, or at least to be willing to begin this process of discernment. Otherwise, they run the risk of building a religious community solely on the premise of who isn’t included, which unfortunately, would be reverting to the status quo of the Evangelical Church, at least in America, if not worldwide.