CLEVELAND (AP) The United Church of Christ announced that an assembly of one of its regional units, the United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico, voted by 75 percent to leave the denomination due to its liberal policies on homosexuality.
The Rev. John Thomas, president of the 1.3 million-member United Church, said "theological differences" had worsened for years, especially "regarding the membership and ministry of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians." The end came when last year's United Church synod endorsed same-sex marriage.
Prior to the Puerto Rico decision, the United Church reported that 49 U.S. congregations had quit over the same-sex marriage decision, though dissenters count at least 77. Protesting congregations that didn't quit have formed Faithful and Welcoming Churches, which confers July 2-4 in Grove City, Ohio.
Thomas said the Puerto Ricans' vote was "deeply painful and profoundly disappointing" but individual congregations there could retain United Church ties.
The Puerto Rico group originated with U.S. missionary work in the late 19th century and organized in 1931 as both a separate denomination and a regional unit within what became the United Church.
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