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Bloomington Church 'Turns Pain Into Action,' Grows After Anti-LGBTQ Vote

Hope UMC
Eric Stock
Hope UMC holds weekly worship services at the Regions Bank building, 1304 E. Empire St., Bloomington.

A United Methodist Church pastor in Bloomington said her congregation has grown in spite of the church's recent decision to uphold bans on gay clergy and same sex weddings.

Pastor of Hope UMC in Bloomington, Jennie Edwards Bertand, toldIPR's The 21st showher church has chosen to "turn the pain of that vote" into action, by keeping their doors open to all.

Jennie Edwards Bertrand
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Jennie Edwards Bertand, pastor of Hope UMC in Bloomington, has said she is prepared to defy the church's stance against performing same-sex weddings.

"We’ve made it clear that we will continue to be a place of full inclusion and that we will be a part of the resistance, even down south of I-80 in Illinois in the cornfields,” she said.

Bertrand said the church's weekly attendance has grown about 25 percent since the UMC first moved to largely uphold its traditional plan. 

The UMC's Judicial Council largely upheld the church's traditional vote when it met in Evanston last week.

Sara Isbell, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, was a delegate at the church's conference in February.

She said the vote felt more like radical change to some—because pastors who defy the rules against gay rights could face punishment.

“We’ve implemented quite a bit of accountability language—which is to say punitive language—for those who disagree, for those who feel differently and wish to minister in a different way,” Isbell said.

Sara Isbell at UMC General Conference
Credit Sid Hastings / AP
Sara Isbell, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Bloomington, joins other delegates at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

Pastors who preside over a same-sex wedding could face a one-year suspension without pay. On a second offense, they could be removed from the ministry.

Bertrand has said she is prepared to defy the church ban, but hasn’t ruled out her congregation leaving the United Methodist Church.

“Where we are in Central Illinois, our voice and our presence are important, but we will also continue to discern if there’s a point where we need to make a different decision,” she said.

Methodist churches in the United States largely backed plans to allow gay weddings and gay clergy, but were outnumbered by delegates in Africa who favored the traditional plan.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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