Plan with LGBT bans OK’d by United Methodist panel

FILE - In this April 19, 2019 file photo, a gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the U.S. flag in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. On Friday, April 26, 2019, the United Methodist Church's judicial council upheld the legality of major portions of a new plan that strengthens the denomination's bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

NEW YORK — The United Methodist Church’s judicial council on Friday upheld major portions of a new plan that strengthens bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT pastors.

Conservatives welcomed the decision and said key elements of the policy, called the Traditional Plan, could begin taking effect in January. Among liberal and centrist opponents of the plan, there was dismay; one group, Reconciling Ministries Network, called for an upsurge of resistance.

The Traditional Plan was adopted in February on 438-384 vote by delegates at a special UMC conference in St. Louis. Most U.S.-based delegates opposed that plan and preferred LGBT-inclusive options, but they were outvoted by U.S. conservatives who teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines.

The nine-member judicial council, at the close of a four-day meeting in Evanston, Ill., ruled that some aspects of the Traditional Plan — mostly related to enforcement of its rules — were unconstitutional under church law. But the council upheld the bulk of the plan, clearing the way for its implementation in January.

The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative Methodist magazine Good News, hailed the council’s ruling as a “strong affirmation” of the Traditional Plan’s core elements.

He suggested that Methodists opposed to the plan should start negotiating to leave the UMC and form a new denomination that would allow them to adopt LGBT-inclusive policies.

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