United Methodist Church lifts 40-year ban on LGBTQ+ clergy: ‘We no longer say being gay is a sin’

LGBTQ+ clergy members are now welcome in the United Methodist Church (UMC), following the lifting of a 40-year ban in the US. 

At a special session of its General Conference as recently as 2019, by a vote of 438 to 384, the UMC upheld its ban on ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy, and of them officiating at, or hosting, same-sex marriages. The decision caused the division between liberal and conservative congregations to deepen, with thousands choosing to leave the Church. 

But on Wednesday (1 May), the UMC’s General Conference voted 692-51 to overturn the ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy, which has been in place since 1984. 

According to the Church’s news service, the ban was struck down without debate alongside other improvements, including that superintendents are not to penalise clergy or churches for holding – or refraining from holding – same-sex weddings.

The decision has been praised by the LGBTQ+ community with pastor Matt Patrick taking to X/Twitter to share his relief. 

“This morning I cried… because a fight I’ve been in for so long found justice.  Friends in the United Methodist Church, starting May 4, we no longer say that being gay is a sin… and no longer ban LGBT from serving as ministers. I can’t believe it… but it’s done,” he wrote.

A comment under the post shared Patrick’s glee, adding that “maybe no one else has to feel this harm ever again”. 

This morning I cried…because a fight I’ve been in for so long found justice

Friends, in the United Methodist Church, starting May 4, we no longer say that being gay is a sin…and no longer ban LGBT from serving as ministers

I can’t believe it…but it’s done.

Praise be to God. https://t.co/mpRXJfzpof

— Matt Patrick (@PattMattrick) May 1, 2024

Karen Oliveto, who became the UCM’s first openly lesbian bishop in 2016, wrote on X that gay clergy can now “bring our full selves as we respond to the Holy Spirit’s call into ordained ministry”, adding: “May we be judged on the fruits of our ministry, not on our sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

We who were nurtured in United Methodism’s theology of God’s generous grace can now bring our full selves as we respond to the Holy Spirit’s call into ordained ministry. May we be judged on the fruits of our ministry, not on our sexual orientation or gender identity. #UMCGC

— Bishop Karen Oliveto (@BishopOliveto) May 1, 2024

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