STATEWIDE —The United Methodist Church boasts nearly 13 million worldwide members. This spring, a proposal will be put before the entire congregation that could divide the church. A UMC leader we spoke with said that’s not as scary as it sounds.
Last fall, the motion was made to fully and openly include LGBTQ members and clergy. In May, members will meet at the church’s General Conference, where an evenly divided group of clergy and regular members could vote to pass the proposal. As it stands now, the move would also allow conservative branches to split off on their own; a move the Kentucky-based Fairness Campaign sees as continuing some of the same oppression LGBTQ have faced throughout much of the Christian world. And, yet, Executive Director Chris Hartman sees some positives as well.
“It’s sad to me that the church couldn’t come together…” Hartman said while standing in his Louisville office. “At least the Methodist congregation is having this conversation about it and allowing a space for, probably, a majority of their congregations to be open and inclusive of LGBTQ folks. I’ll just be sad to see the ones that break off.”
Kentucky’s top bishop, Leonard Fairley, would not take a side when we spoke in his office in Crestwood. Instead, he says, he hopes all members find their place within his flock.
“Whatever expression Methodism takes, I pray that that would be what they would hold onto out of our general rules; to do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with Christ,” he said in a reverent tone. “And, so, the church will go on; we’ve seen it throughout history.”
Yes, the United Methodist Church will likely go on for many years to come, even if it means walking two separate paths under the same banner.