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United Methodist Church lifts bans on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings

The United Methodist Church, one of the largest Protestant denominations in the U.S., has voted to repeal its ban on LGBTQ clergy as well as prohibitions on its ministers from officiating at same-sex weddings.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the changes, 692 to 51, during the United Methodist Church's General Conference.

The meeting is taking place this week in Charlotte, N.C. after the pandemic delayed the 2020 General Conference where these decisions had been slated to take place.

The tone of the Charlotte meeting has been decidedly upbeat, in sharp contrast with the last, highly contentious global meeting back in 2019, when heated floor debates left many feeling hurt.

In fact, there was no floor debate over the clergy and marriages rules this time around. Rather, they were included on a consent agenda.

However, in the years leading up to this General Conference, about one-quarter of United Methodist congregations in the U-S left the denomination. Those congregations tended to be among the most conservative in the church. Their departure made the decisions this year less fraught.

Some of those departing congregations left to form the more conservative Global Methodist Church and others decided to become independent. The main reason many of those congregations left the denomination is that despite the church's official rules against LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings, some local geographic conferences chose to not enforce them.

Last week, the United Methodist Church voted on a "regionalization" plan that would allow various geographic regions of the church — North America, Europe, Africa, and elsewhere — to make their own rules regarding LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings. That move eased the way for United Methodists in more conservative parts of the world to develop their own rules for ministers and marriages.

Shortly after the vote today in Charlotte, spontaneous celebrations erupted on the conference center floor. Hundreds of people began cheering and singing. One of the hymn lyrics distinguishable in the crowd was, "You are a child, you are a child of God."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion, belief, and identity, working closely with correspondents Tom Gjelten and Leila Fadel.