On 26 February, international delegates from the United Methodist Church voted to uphold bans on the LGBTI community. This included rejecting a proposal which would allow regional church bodies to decide whether or not to ordain members of the LGBTI community and perform same-sex weddings. Additionally, they upheld a ‘Traditional Plan’ which would penalize clergy people who break these rules.
However, the Church’s Tampa Bay clergy have vowed to defy this LGBTI ban.
Tell Me More
According to Tampa Bay Times, following the conference, clergymen in Florida had their own ideas for how the Tampa Bay congregation will respond.
‘This outcome is a profound disappointment to many of us who were pushing for greater justice and equality,’ Rev. Magrey deVega, senior pastor at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, wrote in a 27 February letter to his congregation.
‘A lot of tears have been falling. We weep together, among the LGBTQ persons who are stunned, saddened, and harmed by this news,’ he continued. ‘We weep among the thousands of young clergy and laity in our denomination who are angered and disillusioned.’
History of defying the Church
Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida told Tampa Bay Times that churches in the United States have long defied the Church’s LGBTI policies and this will not change.
‘Clergy like myself have been openly officiating same-sex marriages,’ he said. ‘The church calls us, when we see laws that are unjust, to dissent. So I have been practicing that at the risk of losing my orders.’
He added that the majority of American delegates at the conference supported the change. Additionally, he says, the Traditional Plan may soon be deemed unconstitutional by the Church’s judicial body.
‘The entire Western region of the church declared at the end of the conference they will continue to ignore the church’s discriminatory laws.’
‘We are not leaving,’ he stated. ‘The conservative faction of the church, even before the conference, said they did want to leave. So what did pass was an exit plan which may open the door for some churches to leave and form their own denomination.’
Still, Oliver worries about the implications of the vote to uphold the Traditional Plan.
‘The immediate effect is the harm done to the LGBTQ community and specifically children and youth,’ he said. ‘These are the kids that are at the highest risk for suicide and when a young person is sent the message that they are not loved by God that has life and death implications.’
Oliver’s Allendale United Methodist Church took out a full-page ad in the Tampa Bay Times. In the ad, they apologize to the LGBTI community on behalf of the Church.
The Allendale United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg just ran a full page ad in the Tampa Bay Times in which it apologized to the LGBTQIA community for the harm that was done to it by the UMC. The add is a wonderful expression of love for all. Please find it and read it.
— Jerry Colen (@JerryColen) March 2, 2019
Today the people of Allendale #UMC took out a full page ad: a love letter to the #LGBTQIA community to say we are sorry and to vow to make this right. Despite discriminatory church law, our wedding altar and pulpit is open to ALL called to marriage and ministry. #UMCGC #GC2019 pic.twitter.com/xw25ioer1y
— Allendale UMC (@AllendaleUMC) March 2, 2019