(Photo: UMNS/Paul Jeffrey)
A Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has approved a pro-gay resolution denouncing the denomination's Book of Discipline's opposition to homosexuality.
Meeting in Charleston, W.V., nearly two-thirds of the 227 delegates at the Northeastern Jurisdiction of United Methodism approved the resolution on Thursday.
"…while bound to the Book of Discipline, [Jurisdiction leaders] are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus's commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church," reads the resolution.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and author of a book on the history of the United Methodist Church, deemed the resolution "the frustrated last gasps of dying North American liberal Protestantism."
"The NEJ is a very liberal controlled region that has lost hundreds of thousands of members. These kinds of stances are not unusual there," said Tooley in an interview with The Christian Post.
"But most of the lay people are not liberal and a significant minority of clergy are not. Their election of an evangelical bishop is an important sign of hope."
The Northeast Jurisdiction Evangelical Connection of United Methodists released a statement in response to the resolution's success.
"This statement stands in opposition to the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. A Jurisdictional Conference does not have the authority to speak in a manner contrary to the General Conference of the denomination."
"The position of the United Methodist Church on human sexuality has not changed. It remains consistent with 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical tradition and continues to reflect the overwhelming consensus of opinion by Christians of all denominations world-wide."
The resolution vote was part of the UMC NEJ meeting. In the United Methodist Church, the General Conference meets at the beginning of the year followed by the regional conferences and jurisdictions. These regional bodies appoint bishops and consider votes from the previous General Conference as well as prepare possible proposals for the next General Conference, which occurs every four year.
While it is possible that the resolution could continue to move forward into the next General Conference in 2016, Tooley told CP that he felt this would not happen.
"Liberal Methodism has missed the bus and hasn't figured out how it will function in the future church without its power of the past," said Tooley.
Earlier this year at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla., a proposal to remove the denunciation of homosexuality from the UMC Book of Discipline failed.
The proposal, titled the "agree to disagree" amendment, was introduced by the Rev. Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and the Rev. Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio. If enacted, the amendment would have replaced the present language in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality with a statement reading that Methodist churches have their own opinions on the matter and that unity and coexistence would be proclaimed.
Due to jurisdiction meetings, neither the United Methodist Church nor the Northeastern Jurisdiction could return a request for comment by press time.