A month after the general assembly of the United Methodist Church struck down a proposed amendment to church doctrine that would have loosened the affirmation of traditional marriage, hundreds of Iowa Methodists have signed a petition openly challenging its decision.
The pro-gay organization leading the petition, "Do No Harm Iowa," has reportedly gathered 500 signatures, including those from 70 pastors, that oppose the Methodist decision earlier this month to affirm the Book of Discipline's ruling that states: "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."
"There are so many pieces of Scripture we no longer abide by because we have a different context," said the Rev. Diane McClanahan of Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines, a spokesperson for Do No Harm Iowa, as reported by the Des Moines Register.
"(Homosexuality) is just the issue of the day," she added, saying that her vision of Jesus is incompatible with the UMC's doctrine.
"We, United Methodist clergy, in accordance with our ordination vows to 'seek peace, justice, and freedom for all people,' commit to marrying without bias or discrimination all people who seek the blessing of the church and are prepared to assume the privileges and responsibilities of a loving, committed, covenant relationship," reads the petition seeking to push for same-sex marriage, titled the "Covenant of Conscience."
"The recognition of the full humanity, sacred worth, and equal rights of LGBTQ persons is crucial to the civil rights struggles of our time. LGBTQ and straight United Methodist laity and clergy are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny," the convent adds.
Despite supporters of the petition openly disagreeing with the UMC assembly vote, the ruling body has so far viewed its stance simply as dialogue, and has not accused the group of committing any transgression.
"It's part of our tradition to hear takes from people on all different issues," explained the Rev. Bill Burkhart, one of the Iowa Conference's top administrators.
The majority of Methodist leaders, however, stand firm in their defense of the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, as reflected by the 2012 General Conference's 61 percent vote in favor of upholding church doctrine.
"We allow homosexuals to change the church rather than the church to change homosexuals. It is not true that God created gays and lesbians the way they are. I refuse to accept that. Because God is a loving God and He cannot have created something that will make that person suffer. If we say no (to the amendment) it doesn't mean we don't love that person. I stand to say that the grace of God is for all people but the grace of God does not allow us to sin," said one African preacher at the April 24-May 4 UMC General Conference held in Florida.