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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Leaders in the United Methodist Church rejected moves that would have eased the church’s ban on same-sex marriage and the LGBT Clergy.
The church, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, voted Tuesday to strengthen the faith’s bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy.
Critics are worried it will push people out of the church.
Amidst protest from traditionalists, over 800 Methodist delegates from around the world gathered in St. Louis to decide whether the United Methodist Church would allow gay couples to marry religiously in the church and allow openly gay individuals to be ordained clergy.
It’s an issue that threatens to split this Protestant church.
“In the Book of Romans, Paul speaks clearly in opposition to homosexuality,” says Pastor David Sweets of the Ingomar United Methodist Church.
Sweets says the Methodist Book of Discipline is clear.
“Marriage is defined in the Book of Discipline as between one man and one woman,” Sweets told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Tuesday.
But fifteen minutes away, Pastor Jeff Sterling at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church says it’s time for Methodists to fully embrace gays.
“We believe the Bible has far more scriptures about welcoming people and including people, and we have the example of Jesus who didn’t deny anybody,” notes Sterling.
Delegates in St. Louis were asked to vote for what’s called the “One Church Plan” that would allow churches and local conferences to decide these issues for themselves, or to vote for the Traditional Plan that reaffirms current practice against homosexuality.
For those in the pews, not much is going to change in the way of the worship service.
But there is great apprehension about what all this means in terms of a schism, a division within the Methodist Church.
“It could be that we’re going to have a split,” says Sterling.
“Part of what could come out of this conference is a process where churches and pastors could have what’s called a graceful exit,” he adds.
“There may be people on both sides of the issue that feel that we haven’t dealt with the issue appropriately enough,” says Sweets.
But a split of the Methodist Church saddens everyone.
“It’s not our desire to lose them, and not to be able to have fellowship with them,” says Sweets.
On Tuesday afternoon, delegates defeated the pro-LGBTQ “One Church Plan” by 50 just votes.
One major objection — stronger provisions against clergy and churches who disobey the traditional views of the church.
The Methodist Church has 800 churches in Western Pennsylvania.