The United Methodist Church released a statement explaining that there was a level of improper voting at the special session of General Conference last month in which the denomination reaffirmed its official position against homosexuality.
Delegates at the special session voted in favor of a proposal called “The Traditional Plan” that reaffirmed the UMC’s official position labeling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and promised stricter enforcement of its ban on same-sex marriage and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
The UMC Executive Committee of the Commission on the General Conference reported Thursday that “a very limited number” of people who were not allowed to vote nevertheless got to cast ballots at the special session.
“… an in-depth review was initiated to prepare the delegate attendance records as required by the rules of the General Conference. The secretary, along with the business manager, General Conference staff and an independent auditing firm, cross-checked credential cards, name badge bar code scans, attendance forms, reserve delegate seating forms and other resources,” reported the executive committee.
“Upon completion of the review, it appears possible that a very limited number of ineligible persons who were correctly denied credentials by General Conference staff were later able to procure them.”
While the specific number of ineligible voters has not been released, Secretary of the General Conference, the Rev. Gary W. Graves, told the United Methodist News Service that the improper votes were not large enough to change the results.
However, the very close vote of 402-400 to substitute a minority report for Petition 90066, which regarded allowing churches to disaffiliate from the UMC with minimal cost, is a point of concern.
“The parliamentarian who served at the Special Session is being consulted regarding any potential impact this situation may have on the legislative action which resulted in the substitution of the minority report for the legislative committee’s report in the processing of petition 90066 since the vote to substitute was a two-vote difference of 402-400,” continued the executive committee.
Over the past several years, the UMC has endured an intense debate over whether to change its Book of Discipline’s biblically-based stance that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Delegates at the UMC special session of General Conference, representing all of the global denomination, voted to reject a measure called the “One Church Plan,” which would have allowed regional bodies of the denomination to determine their position on homosexuality.
In an official vote of 438-384, the General Conference approved The Traditional Plan, prompting outrage from pro-LGBT United Methodist groups and congregations.
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, which is the largest UMC congregation in the United States, openly entertained the idea of leaving the UMC.
“I think it would not be hard,” said Hamilton in an interview with The Kansas City Star that was published days after the special session ended.
“I think our folks here love the United Methodist Church … they love the kind of church we have created and so we could start a new United Methodist Church and thousands of churches would join us.”
However, other leaders, including Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC of Charlotte, North Carolina, celebrated the special session vote 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 in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
“We gladly join with our global brothers and sisters in teaching this truth with as much love and winsomeness as we can.”