Community Issues

Methodists React to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Clergy

Could there be a split in the denomination over this issue? Local pastors weigh in on both sides while awaiting a final vote

One of the largest church denominations in Western Pennsylvania -- and the country -- could be on the verge of a breakup, after the national Methodist church re-affirmed a ban on same-sex weddings and ordaining openly gay clergy. The preliminary vote happened at the denomination's three-day General Conference in St. Louis this week. Observers say a final vote Tuesday has the potential drive LGBT worshipers and their supporters out of the church.

The Western Pennsylvania Methodist Conference is home to more than 800 Methodist churches with tens of thousands of members and hundreds of clergy. Ministers and parishioners here seem to be as split on the issue as the national Methodists seem to be.

"In the Book of Romans, Paul speaks clearly in opposition to homosexuality," Pastor David Sweets of the Ingomar United Methodist Church in Franklin Park told KDKA-TV's Jon Delano. Sweets says the denomination's own Book of Discipline backs that up.

"Marriage is defined in the Book of Discipline as between one man and one woman," Rev. David Sweets, Ingomar United Methodist Church

Just a few miles away at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Allison Park, Pastor Jeff Sterling had a different view. "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," Sterling told KDKA.

"I just wish we could find a resolution that might create genuine unity." Rev. Jeff Sterling, St. Paul's United Methodist Church

The Methodist Church, which is the second largest Protestant denomination in the country, hasn't really enforced LGBT bans. Some ministers have done gay marriages or even come out as gay. The so-called "Traditional Plan" that will be voted on Tuesday would call for enforcing the conservative rules.

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