Methodists Vote Not to Change Outlook on Homosexuality
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: May 3, 2012
The United Methodist Church, at its convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, voted not to change long-contested wording in its book of laws and doctrines that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The vote was 61 percent to 39 percent against the change to the church’s “Book of Discipline,” indicating little change to the deadlock on an issue the church has been debating for the last four decades. The delegates also defeated a compromise amendment proposed by the advocates of equality for gay members, which said that Methodists can agree to disagree on homosexuality and still live together as a church.
The debate on the floor of the convention, which is held only once every four years and draws about 1,000 delegates, illustrated the deep divisions and demographic shifts in the church. A delegate from Africa likened homosexuality to bestiality only moments after several American delegates pleaded with the conference to “hear the pain” of gay church members. When protesters supporting gay rights interrupted the convention with loud singing after the vote, the moderator ended the morning session early and closed the convention hall to visitors.
The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States, with a shrinking membership of about 7.8 million. Its membership abroad has grown to about 4.4 million, mostly in Africa and the Philippines, where homosexuality is often denounced.