United Methodist Church drops decades-old ban on ordaining LGBT clergy without debate

By The Christian Post |
UM Conference removes ban on same-sex marriage
Bishop Karen Oliveto (in blue jacket) and her wife, Robin Ridenour (front, center), join in embracing delegates and visitors at the 2024 United Methodist General Conference in Charlotte, N.C. after the conference voted to remove the denomination's ban on the ordination of clergy who are "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" — a prohibition that dates to 1984. | Mike DuBose/UM News

The United Methodist General Conference has voted to remove a decades-old ban on ordaining pastors in romantic same-sex relationships after thousands of conservative congregations left the denomination in recent years. 

At the UMC General Conference Wednesday, delegates approved without debate a measure removing the language from the Book of Discipline as part of a broader consent calendar, passing it by a final tally of 692 to 51.

Since 1984, the UMC Book of Discipline has prohibited the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals," with many progressives in the mainline Protestant denomination openly refusing to enforce or follow the restriction.

Applause from General Conference attendees was heard after the vote, with retired Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, a longtime proponent of removing the language, offering a prayer.

"You every day are great God, and every day You are working for good in the world. Stir up in us a desire to serve You, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all creation, and devote this day to your service," Ward said, as quoted by UM News.

Over the past several years, the UMC has experienced intense debate over whether to change various rules in its Book of Discipline regarding LGBT individuals, which included barring the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals, prohibiting clergy from performing same-sex unions and barring church bodies from funding LGBT advocacy groups.

Although efforts to change the rules at the General Conference have failed in past years, many theological liberal leaders within the UMC have ignored the rules and allowed individuals who were in same-sex relationships to be ordained or even promoted to bishop.

For example, Karen Oliveto was elected bishop in 2016 by the UMC Western Jurisdiction despite being in a same-sex marriage. Although her election was deemed invalid by the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination's highest court, in 2017, she remains a bishop to the present day.

Oliveto gave a sermon at General Conference on Monday, asking those gathered if they were "willing to meet and serve Jesus in the queer clergy person who has been faithful to God's call even when the Church has tried to deny that call?"

At a 2019 special session of the General Conference, delegates approved a temporary measure that created a disaffiliation process for congregations that wanted to leave the UMC due to the debate over sexuality, with more than 7,500 churches doing so by the end of 2023.

On Tuesday, as part of another consent calendar, delegates voted 667-54 to remove the Book of Discipline's ban on funding LGBT advocacy groups and mandatory punishments for clergy who blessed same-sex unions.

Originally published by the Christian Post.