Community Issues

What's Next? Methodists Meet Regionally After Controversial Conference

"Debriefing sessions" are scheduled in regions across the country after vote to affirm the church's ban on ordaining gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

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Members churches in the country's third largest religious denomination are being encouraged to attend regional "debriefing sessions" in the wake of the controversial decision by their leaders to affirm the church's doctrine banning ordination of gay clergy conducting gay marriages in the church. Some experts say the move by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church could and maybe even should cause the denomination to split, while even some churches opposed to the doctrine are taking a wait and see attitude about leaving.

The series of debriefing sessions in Southwestern Pennsylvania will include regional church leadership and people who were delegates to the conference. Everyone will get a chance to hear from the delegates about the vote and from church leaders about how the gay marriage/clergy ban will be implemented and enforced. People will also have a chance to ask questions.

The Pittsburgh District Debriefing will be Sunday, March 24 at 2 pm at Salem United Methodist Church (350 Manor Rd., Wexford, PA 15090). Click here for a schedule of other debriefs in Methodist districts around the area.

The so-called "Traditional Plan," affirmed by a narrow margin at last week's General Conference in St. Louis, has caused a rift between more conservative groups who say the Bible prohibits gay clergy and same-sex marriage, and factions that believe Christ's teachings would have the denomination be more welcoming.

Nancy Denardo. a delegate from Western Pennsylvania, cited Scriptures in her argument against the competing "One Church Plan" which would have allowed pastors, congregations and conferences to decide if they would ordain gay clergy and allow same-sex marriage in the church. "Friends, please stop sowing seeds of deceit," she said, quoted in an article on the UM News website . "I love you and I love you enough to tell the truth."

"I'm truly sorry if the truth of the Gospel hurts anyone." Nancy Denardo, delegate from Western PA, in UM News

Some more liberal congregations are already threatening to leave the denomination over the vote. Others are vowing to stay, but defy the ban on the ordination of gay clergy, and continue to officiate gay marriages.

Still others say this General Conference has shown it's time for the denomination to split. "It is obvious to me that we are a denomination deeply divided over this issue and that our best efforts to find a way to keep the denomination together over the past 40 years have not been successful," said the Rev. Kent Millard, president of United Theological Seminary (click here to read his full statement) .

Millard says he thinks it's time for church leaders to figure out a way to amicably divide. "Continuing to quarrel over this issue hurts people on all sides, does not glorify God, does not demonstrate unconditional love for all people and does not help make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," said Millard .

"Continuing to quarrel over this issue hurts people on all sides." Rev. Kent Millard, President, United Theological Seminary

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