BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The United Methodist Church has voted to strengthen its stance against same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy.
America’s second-largest Protestant denomination faces a potential split, after a special-called General Conference delegation rejected a plan which would have allowed local churches to decide whether or not to allow same-sex weddings and gay clergy.
Instead, delegates approved the Traditional Plan which tightens restrictions. The vote was 449-374.
Protests could be heard in the convention center as the remainder of the conference calendar was brought up for consideration.
First United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Stephanie Arnold shares the protesters’ disappointment
“We have gotten it devastatingly wrong today,” said Pastor Arnold.
Tuesday’s vote was to reject the “One Church” plan, which would have allowed local churches to perform same-sex weddings and hire openly LGBT clergy.
Instead, the United Methodist Church voted to accept The Traditional Plan.
“Disappointment. I am dumbfounded that... these are good people. There’s not anybody at General Conference who I believe is hateful or mean spirited. I think I am in shock that we can’t choose to say to one another, ‘We don’t see this the same way,'" said Pastor Arnold.
Asbury United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Kip Laxson said while some may be disappointed that the church has not moved forward in full inclusion of the LGBTQ persons of faith, he said the United Methodist Church is the same United Methodist Church before it came to the special session of the general conference.
“Regardless of what happens in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church is still the church of open hearts, open minds, and open doors. Where all people are welcome. How we welcome them, how we include them, that is being debated. But at least, unlike some, we say, ‘You are welcome here. You can be a part of our church,'” said Pastor Laxson.
But for Pastor Arnold, she said she will remain hopeful for a more inclusive future.
“I feel very strongly that we are moving in the wrong direction and away from grace, which is the bedrock of United Methodist theology,” she said.
Pastor Arnold said The North Alabama conference has a meeting this Saturday.
That's when their Bishop will explain what this vote means for them.
On Sunday, First United Methodist in downtown Birmingham will hold a service of healing and hope that is open for everyone.
The members voted to send the approved plan to the members of the judicial council for possible review against the church constitution.