At a special session Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted for the plan that would continue the prohibition of gay clergy and same-sex marriage within the church, and provide harsher punishments for disobedient clergy.
Heather Seman, lead pastor at Community United Methodist Church in Coeur d’Alene, said that regardless of how this proceeds, people will be hurt.
“Nobody is going to get out of this unscathed, that’s the reality no matter what side you’re on,” Seman said. “Hurt is going to happen.”
Seman said that in December her church put out signs in front that said “All are welcome. All means all.”
“We wanted to be known for who we are as the congregation at the corner of Ramsey and Hanley no matter what the general conference said about United Methodist,” Seman said.
She also said it was important to remember that United Methodist Church is global, and there isn’t just one type of congregant, even within her own congregation.
“Just saying the word Methodist does not make you progressive or conservative, it makes you Methodist,” Seman said. “You can fall anywhere between the most extremes and still be United Methodist.”
Dale Cockrum, congregational care pastor at Audubon Park United Methodist Church in Spokane, said that the thing that makes a Methodist a Methodist is “we have very strong beliefs and strong opinions, but we have taken Jesus’ word very seriously that our primary task is to love one another.”
What this plan means for the future of the church remains unclear. Deb Conklin, pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Spokane, said she is not sure how the church would be able to punish infractions.
“They haven’t explained how the supporters of the so-called traditional plan intend to enforce it,” Conklin said. “In our system, there is nothing that permits someone from the Southeast or from Africa to put someone from the Northeast or the Western jurisdiction on trial or to do anything with their ordination.”
Conklin said she wouldn’t be surprised if the Western jurisdiction continued to break these rules, but regardless, people will leave as a result of the decision.
“A lot of my LGBTQI friends are deeply hurt and frustrated and angry and some of them will leave, but I don’t know how many,” Conklin said. “I don’t know to what extent, if the Western jurisdiction continues to do things with the way we’ve been doing them, I don’t know if that will convince some people not to leave.”
Conklin said she understands, even if Western jurisdiction disobeys the traditional plan, why some would choose to leave, that they are done being in a church that says hurtful things about them. She also been asked why she stays.
“My answer is this is the church of my heart,” Conklin said. “I believe that John Wesley properly understood would be appalled at the vote that we just took.”
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