United Methodist conservatives praised their denomination for upholding a biblical understanding of homosexuality while a liberal group accused those 'Traditional Plan' supporters, which included many African delegates, of advancing a "white nationalist strain of Christianity."
A United Methodist Church pastor at a North Carolina-based megachurch stated that he is “delighted” by the results of the denomination’s special session of General Conference, which upheld the Church’s stance against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
On Tuesday, delegates at the special session voted 438-384 in favor of adopting the “Traditional Plan” for resolving the UMC’s years-long debate over sexual ethics. This plan involved maintaining the denomination’s official position against homosexuality, gay marriage, and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals while promising stricter enforcement.
Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC of Charlotte, which averages about 2,000 worshippers every Sunday, told The Christian Post that he supported the result.
“I am delighted that the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted the Traditional Plan as we believe in the beautiful picture of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture as well as church teaching for since its inception,” said Davis.
“We gladly join with our global brothers and sisters in teaching this truth with as much love and winsomeness as we can.”
Davis also told CP that he believed the General Conference decision “will not change anything about what we do at Good Shepherd,” adding that the UMC “has been living under the basic framework of the Traditional Plan all along.”
The Rev. Keith Mcilwain, pastor at Slippery Rock United Methodist Church in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, likewise expressed support for the decision.
“While I am sensitive to the pain and disappointment which many of my colleagues and friends are experiencing, I am optimistic about what was accomplished at General Conference,” said Mcilwain to CP in an email interview.
“The Church once again reaffirmed her commitment to the ecumenical consensus of the last two thousand years, and firmly took her place in the global orthodox resurgence which is doing great things all over the world for the gospel.”
Mcilwain explained that his congregation was based in a college town and that his congregation of about 140 held diverse views on the human sexuality debate.
“I’m hopeful that we can continue to work together for Jesus. We have a strong history in this congregation of loving one another deeply even when we disagree,” continued Mcilwain.
Delegates representing the global UMC met in St. Louis, Missouri on Feb. 23-26 to discern proposals for attempting to resolve the longstanding divisive debate over whether the Church should change its position on LGBT issues.
Many progressive United Methodists voiced their support for “The One Church Plan,” which would have allowed regional bodies and local congregations to determine their own stance on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Despite the strong support for the One Church Plan among the Council of Bishops and other UMC bodies and clergy, delegates proceeded to vote the Plan down.
Reconciling Ministries Network, an LGBT advocacy group that has long attempted to change the UMC’s position on sexual ethics, released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the Traditional Plan as “deeply unjust and painful.”
“The Traditionalist Plan was passed by the efforts of organized opponents to gospel inclusion who have funded and promoted the demise of Christian witness across denominations who have dared to call out a white nationalist strain of Christianity,” stated RMN.
Delegates representing African UMC congregations were crucial to the success of the Traditional Plan and also the voting down of pro-LGBT alternatives.
RMN also noted that they plan to "gather soon to determine the next steps in our continued advocacy for LGBTQIA+ people in The UMC."
"There may be a ‘traditional’ (divisive) plan, but by no means is our work abandoned. This is our Church. This is our Christ. This is our God," they stated.