The General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met in Orlando, Fla., this week and voted on a resolution that will embrace sexual orientation and gender identity as specially affirmed categories within the church.
The governing body stated that open members of the homosexual and transgender community will be welcomed to worship and serve in the denomination's churches the same way members of different races and ages do.
"Our resolution is about welcoming everyone to the Lord's Table in the way God welcomes each and every one of God's children into God's embrace regardless of creed, race, ability or any other wall that divides," said Cherilyn Williams, a member of the Marketing and Communications team at Disciples of Christ, to The Christian Post on Friday.
According to a statement, the resolution also affirms the "faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity" and states that neither is "grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church."
Williams told CP that the church allows openly gay individuals to serve in leadership roles, however, there are some churches within their council that "would have a problem with that."
"Many Disciples of Christ have studied the scripture and faithfully prayed and discerned that homosexuality is a sin," said Williams. "There are also many Disciples who have studied the scripture and faithfully prayed and discerned and come to a different conclusion."
The new resolution has been called an "embrace of sexual liberalism and of Gnosticism," by Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion and Democracy, who finds the denomination's new decision deviates from biblical reasoning.
"Historic Christian teaching rooted in scripture and universal church tradition affirms sex between husband and wife. It also of course affirms the concrete physical reality of maleness and femaleness," said Tooley to CP. "Gender identity is not selected or imagined but is God's gift. The Disciples' resolution rejects Christian teaching and natural law in favor of postmodern ideology about evolving gender identity and the moral equality of all sexual behaviors."
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Tooley also said the new resolution will "sideline" the church in addition to its declining membership from nearly 2 million in the 1960s to its current 600,000 members.
"Liberal Protestants have long believed that they will win favor and popularity by abandoning biblical teaching and accommodating secular fads. But liberal Protestantism has been imploding globally for 50 years with no reversal in sight," said Tooley.
"Liberal religion echoes secular culture but it rarely, if ever, wins respect. The Disciples are the fastest declining liberal denomination, and their latest resolution helps ensure their spiral sadly will continue," he added.
But according to Disciples of Christ, they consider themselves to be a "movement for wholeness in a fragmented world."
"Nothing has changed. These are people who have been marginalized and not named, so now they are welcomed," said Williams.