United Methodist Church aims to establish LGBTQ policies during conference in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE — The Methodist Church has broken in two over issues involving the LGBTQ community, and that debate will be significant when Methodists gather in Charlotte next week for its general conference.

The United Methodist Church has lost a quarter of its member churches in recent years over its stance on LGBTQ rights, including whether to allow members to become pastors and officiate LGBTQ weddings. The debate has been going on for decades, but next week, the church is hoping to end it.

A major exodus of member churches happened after the last general conference in 2019, when traditionalist members tightened the church’s anti-LGBTQ policies.

“When that first got into our Book of Discipline in 1972, the world was very different, homosexuality was considered a disorder,” Bishop Ken Carter told Channel 9′s Evan Donovan. “And we have learned a lot about people and about identity and about orientation in 50-something years.”

Carter was the president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops during that conference, which led to a period when congregations were allowed to leave if they disagree with being more accepting of LGBTQ people.

Donovan asked Carter the question that many current and former members who are conservative believe church leadership is ignoring.

“How is the United Methodist Church’s stance on inclusivity supported by the New Testament?” Donovan asked.

“The word homosexual didn’t appear in our English Bibles until 100 years ago,” Carter said. “Jesus never says anything about homosexuality. And so when the Apostle Paul talks about it, which is really the one place in the New Testament, the scholars believe he may be talking about abusive relationships, or adult and child relationships.”

Eliminating anti-LGBTQ policies has become the first goal in what delegates are calling the “three Rs” for this conference. That includes removing the church’s ban on officiating same-sex weddings and LGBTQ clergy members, revising its social principles to be more global, and regionalizing church administration.

“Some of my African friends have said, you know, we come to these general conferences and all we talk about is what’s important to the United States,” Carter said.

Orientation began Friday afternoon, and it lasts two weeks at the Convention Center in Uptown.

(WATCH: United Methodist Church could split over same-sex marriage)

Evan Donovan

Evan Donovan, wsoctv.com

Evan is an anchor and reporter for Channel 9.