Several Methodist church leaders in Bloomington-Normal are joining a national effort to formally resist the global church's recent efforts to strengthen bans against gay clergy and same-sex weddings.
The group of more than 600 United Methodists gathered last week in Leawood, Kansas, at a conference billed as UMC Next to address the churches' anti-LGBTQ stance.
Jennie Edwards Bertrand, pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, called the United Methodist Church's position untenable, but each church will decide for itself how far it will go to take a stand for equality.
“Resistance actions can be contextual, so that might look different in San Francisco than it looks in Des Moines,” she said. “People can decide contextually what a powerful active resistance is.”
Edwards Bertrand has said her church would not turn away a gay couple wishing to marry there.
She said those churches who uphold equal rights could explore forming a separate denomination if the two sides can't find common ground.
“There will be people who begin to think through what another form of Methodism might look like, and they may or may not begin to think through how to form that, how to create that,” she said.
Edwards Bertrand added church leaders involved in the movement aren’t sure how the global church might respond or whether this resistance will accelerate a fracture within the church.
“That also depends contextually, the power and resources and assets that one has where they are, the role of those who are in charge and how they are or are not a part of the resistance, such that it makes an impact and moves us forward,” she said.
The global UMC voted in February at a special conference to uphold its longstanding bans against same-sex weddings and gay clergy, which were codified in its Traditional Plan, while adding the suspension and possible removal from the ministry as punishment for violators.
Delegates in the United States largely opposed that plan in a narrow vote, but were outnumbered by the large number of delegates from UMC churches in Africa where LGBTQ rights are limited and, in some cases, nonexistent.
Pastors from Wesley UMC in Bloomington, Normal First UMC and Illinois State University's campus ministry also attended the conference.
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