(Photo: Screengrab/Paul Richmond)
An annual conference of the United Methodist Church has passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage, even though the denomination officially deems homosexuality incompatible with Christianity.
The Ariz.-centered Desert Southwest Annual Conference of the UMC passed the resolution Sunday which expresses both support for same-sex marriage and for clergy who perform gay marriage ceremonies.
"RESOLVED that the Desert Southwest Annual Conference and the United Methodist Churches of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference make a public statement supporting and upholding Marriage Equality," reads the resolution in part.
"…[we] will support our clergy who take the bold and faithful stand to minister to all equally and include all in the life of the church, which includes but is not limited to, conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies where it is civically legal to do so."
A group known as the "Welcoming and Reconciling Committee" presented the resolution to the Conference for consideration.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata, head of the Conference, has 30 days to rule as to whether or not the resolution is legal, given the UMC Book of Discipline's stance on homosexuality.
This is not the first time the Desert Conference of the UMC has opted to take a pro-gay stance. According to the resolution, last year the Conference resolved to "work for the full civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges of all persons including LGBT persons and that the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church work together to build a fully inclusive church."
The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, which serves as the denomination's governing document, states that homosexual behavior "is incompatible with Christian teaching." Furthermore, non-celibate homosexuals are not allowed ordination and clergy cannot oversee same-sex wedding ceremonies, even in places where gay marriage is legally recognized.
Efforts to amend the language on homosexuality and marriage from the Book of Discipline have failed, in part because of the UMC General Conference's large and growing congregations in Africa and Asia.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, told The Christian Post that the resolution was "more of the same" from liberals within the UMC.
"[The Desert Conference] is one of the most liberal areas in United Methodism and frequently makes liberal declarations about political issues that probably don't even represent the views of most United Methodist lay people in Arizona," said Tooley.
"It is also among the fastest declining, having lost about half its membership in a state like Arizona where the population has been fast growing. Its witness might be more effective if it instead focused on filling its emptying churches."
Tooley also told CP that he felt the resolution would have "absolutely zero" effect on the direction of the UMC on the issue of homosexuality.
"The entire Western Jurisdiction of the UMC, which includes the Pacific and Rocky Mountain states plus the southwest, now accounts for about 3 percent of total UMC membership and is slipping further," said Tooley.
The Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church did not return comment to The Christian Post by press time due to being closed for the Fourth of July holiday.