The United Methodist Church has voted to uphold the denomination's opposition to same-sex marriage and to the ordaining of LGBTQ clergy, the United Methodist News reported.
Delegates from across the globe passed the so-called Traditional Plan in a vote of 438-384. The church will maintain its stance that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching," as outlined in "The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church." The vote followed three days of emotional debate over the issue at the United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis.
The plan also calls for stricter enforcement and possibly a "gracious exit" for congregations that support gay clergy and same-sex marriage.
The church's Commission on a Way Forward, a theologically diverse group of UM leaders, was tasked with creating proposals that would offer solutions to ending the church's divisive debate over homosexuality.
Two major plans were introduced, the One Church Plan and the Traditional Plan, at the conference earlier this week.
The One Church Plan, which would allow regional bodies and individual congregations to make their own determinations about homosexuality, was defeated Tuesday morning.
What did supporters for the Traditional Plan say?
The Rev. Isaac Bodje, a delegate from Côte d'Ivoire who argued for the Traditional Plan, was pleased with the move.
"We have among ourselves two different approaches," Bodje said. "Is it the world impacts the church, or the church impacts the world?"
The Rev. Jerry Kulah, a Liberian delegate and leader of the Africa Initiative coalition, also argued in favor of the plan.
"The Traditional Plan is not only traditional but biblical; it ensures God's word remains foundational to the life and growth of the UMC. I submit we love our LGBTQ friends," Kulah said, according to UMC News.
Following the vote, Mark Tooley, who attended the conference, called the move historic.
"Historic: United Methodist General Conference ok's Traditional Plan reaffirming church teaching on marriage & strengthening accountability. Transitioning from liberal Mainline to global orthodox, our great church has future," Tooley tweeted.
Bishop Scott Jones of the Texas Conference told UM News in a statement that the vote finally resolves the debate on how the church "can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
"This decision is consistent with our denomination's historic stance on human sexuality, outlined in the Book of Discipline since 1972," Jones said.
"We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth," he continued. "I pray we, as a denomination, can now move forward, working with each other in the spirit of Christian love and joining together as one. We are stronger together in serving God's mission as a diverse body of Christ."
What did opponents say?
Openly gay delegate, J.J. Warren of the Upper New York Conference, spoke on the floor against the Traditional Plan.
"Jesus told the little children to come when the disciples tried to shoo them away," Warren said, according to the Christian Post. "Don't shoo us away. Let us come."
Adam Hamilton, the lead pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, called the Traditional Plan regressive and alienating to "centrists and progressives," the Christian Post reported.
"You've inspired an awful lot of people who are not really engaged in the struggle before," Hamilton said. "You've inspired them to action. They're mad, they're upset, they're hurt."
Does the church allow gay members?
While the church doesn't condone the practice of homosexuality, it does call for love and acceptance of the gay community.
"We affirm that God's grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us," the Book of Discipline states. "We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons."