New panel may soften the blow, but a Methodist schism is still likely

by Earle Cornelius, Staff Writer, LancasterOnline

For the past 44 years, the United Methodist Church has debated church rules on sexuality.

At the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon, Wednesday night, delegates voted to put off the issue for at least another two years.

Why this is a complex issue for United Methodists

By a narrow vote of 425-408, delegates approved a proposal to allow bishops to appoint a commission to study whether to ordain gay pastors and sanction same-sex marriage.

In a statement titled “An offering for a way forward,” the Council of Bishops agreed “to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”

The council made clear it will include representation from all sides of the issue.

Bishop Peggy Johnson, the episcopal leader of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference of which Lancaster County is a part, described the Book of Discipline as “a patchwork quilt of rules that (has been) word-smithed over the past 40 years.”

A certain ‘schizophrenia’

She said there is a certain “schizophrenia” in church rules that declare same-gender relationships “incompatible with Christian teaching” while also claiming to welcome lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals into the church. Read more