One of the world's largest Christian denominations has reaffirmed their stance on matters of sexuality. It also faces a very real threat of schism as a result.
822 delegates from around the world and thousands of observers gathered in St. Louis, Missouri, for a special session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
According to United Methodist News Service, "delegates joined to consider legislative plans that would remove from church law restrictions against the ordination of 'self-professed practicing homosexuals' and against pastors and churches performing and hosting same-sex unions. Other plans would retain those provisions and boost enforcement of violations."
In the end, it was the so-called "Traditional Plan" which passed with a vote of 438 to 384.
As the name suggests, the plan holds to the denominations traditional view, which bans same-sex marriage and homosexual clergy. The plan also calls to enforce the church's rules more strictly.
One of the denomination's bishops, Scott Jones of Texas, released a statement saying the vote "resolves a long-standing debate about how we can best accomplish our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
"We will continue to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer persons to our churches and affirm their sacred worth. 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," he said.
Some observers unhappy with the results attempted to gain access to the floor, according to UMNS.
Security blocked their entrance, as they chanted to be admitted.
Many are now worried about the fallout. It is likely that many clergy, members, and adherents will leave the denomination. It's possible that entire conferences might disaffiliate, as well.
The UMNS quoted Rev. Tom Berlin, Virginia Conference, who had warned against the negatives of voting in favour of the Traditional Plan.
"If the Traditional Plan is voted in, it will be a virus that will make the American church very sick,” he said. “Many pastors are going to leave, many annual conference will leave. … There will be trials, and they will be on the news. The only news about the church will be about people we don’t serve."