Conservative members of the United Methodist Church have expressed doubt that a recently approved petition from a local state body of the denomination will influence a change in the Church's position against homosexuality.
During the weekend, a majority of the delegates at the UMC Virginia Annual Conference voted in favor of a petition calling for the denomination to change its position on homosexuality.
Known as Petition 14, the measure called for the striking of language in the UMC Book of Discipline that describes homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching."
Keith Boyette, pastor at Wilderness Community Church of Spotsylvania and attendee of the annual conference, told The Christian Post that the petition was typical of previous unsuccessful efforts "repeatedly made over past years from different areas of The United Methodist Church."
"Adoption of the petition by the Virginia Conference does not change the position of The United Methodist Church. Only the general conference, which will meet in May of 2016, can do that," said Boyette.
"Petition 14 also does not address other language contained in our Book of Discipline which continues to prohibit self-avowed practicing homosexuals from being certified as candidates for ministry. … [It] also does not address language in our Book of Discipline that prohibits United Methodist pastors from conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-sex unions, or for such ceremonies from occurring within United Methodist facilities."
Boyette also told CP that there were thousands of petitions filed for general conference and that will include others passed in support of the current Discipline language.
Boyette was one of five people at the annual conference who spoke against Petition 14; five others spoke in support.
Over the weekend lay and clergy representatives from across the Commonwealth gathered at Roanoke for the annual conference. Petition 14 was one of many measures that attendees voted on during the multi-day gathering of the UMC.
Submitted by Mark Ogren and W. Clark Williams Jr., Petition 14 called for the striking of the language in the Discipline that called homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."
The petition claimed, among other things, that the Bible's prohibition on homosexual activity was "bound by historical context and not God's Will for all time." And that homosexuality was an immutable characteristic of a human being, thus being "part of God's creation."
Petition 14 passed with 989 ayes to 868 nays, as well as 40 abstentions. Regarding the vote, Virginia UMC Bishop Young Jin Cho released a statement regarding the process behind the vote.
"I want you to know that this vote took place in the midst of honest debate and prayerful discernment. Throughout it all, the expressed will of all participants was that we might know God's will for our church at this time," stated Cho.
"I know the results of this action will be received with widely varied responses. But whatever those responses, what has not changed is that we are a people who share a common heritage and a common ministry in Christ Jesus."
Regarding Petition 14's success, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP that the effect it will have on next year's general conference will be "none."
"The petition reflects a sad desire to abandon biblical teaching in favor of conforming to secular culture," said Tooley, who called measures like Petition 14 "routine."
"Overall, the results from elections of general conference delegates across the country, together with overseas delegations, indicate the likely reaffirmation of current church policy."