United Methodist megachurch pastor Adam Hamilton stated at a Texas gathering that Christians can support gay marriage and not be at odds with orthodoxy.
In recent years, the UMC has had intense debate over the denomination's official stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Speaking at a conference organized by the group Uniting Methodists held last week at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Hamilton spoke about the authority of Scripture regarding the church body's debate over LGBT issues.
He argued that both sides of the debate within the UMC held high opinions of Scripture and that the differences were over interpretation instead.
Hamilton took issue with the idea that Christians accepting same-sex marriage means that they have rejected "the historic essentials of the Christian faith."
"So orthodoxy now means that I hold a particular view of same-gender marriage and/or a particular view of Scripture that gets me to a particular view of same-gender marriage," stated Hamilton.
"I think that's a tragic reading. It's interesting it doesn't show up in any of the creeds, anything about same-gender marriage or even a particular doctrine on scripture doesn't show up in any of the creeds, but that's now become how some have looked at orthodoxy."
Hamilton also denounced the tendency of both conservatives and liberals within the UMC, and society overall, when claiming that they are definitely correct on the issue.
"We feel like we can't be around people like that who believe these things that are different from what I believe or practice something different or interpret the Scripture differently," Hamilton continued.
"Then we start calling them names. We pick the good names for us and we pick the bad names for them. We're the orthodox, that must mean you're the heretics."
He explained that during the 1990s, he identified as a "traditionalist." But as time progressed, he started to move away from that interpretation. Nevertheless, he believed that "the Church needs to have respect for people who are traditionalists."
Launched in September 2017 with Hamilton as a supporter, Uniting Methodists is a group of UMC clergy and laity seeking to allow local church bodies to determine their own position on LGBT issues.
"We call for disciplinary changes so that clergy are neither compelled to officiate at same-sex weddings, nor prohibited from doing so," stated the group last year.
"We call for disciplinary changes so that annual conferences are neither compelled to ordain LGBTQ persons, nor prohibited from doing so."
The group also declared that their differences on same-sex marriage and ordination "stem from differences over biblical interpretation, not biblical authority."
The UMC will hold a special general conference next February to determine what position they will take on LGBT issues, with one proposal, the One Church Plan, getting the support of Uniting Methodists.
Endorsed by a majority of the UMC Council of Bishops, the One Church Plan involves calls for changing the Book of Discipline to remove language labeling homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching," allowing churches in the United States to permit same-sex weddings and gay ordination while letting clergy and some overseas conferences retain opposition.
"The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church," stated the Council.
"This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions."
This Plan has its critics, including the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, whose UM Staffer John Lomperis wrote a multi-part critique.
Among his many concerns, Lomperis argued that the One Church Plan is the "most guaranteed to split our denomination apart."
"This plan would regionalize and localize the most emotionally bitter fights of General Conference to instead take place at central conference meetings, annual conference clergy sessions, and eventually every U.S. congregation," wrote Lomperis.
"This plan also offers no olive branches whatsoever of respect, grace, or amicable treatment toward congregations in which the members overwhelmingly felt they could not remain in a denomination with these new standards."