BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The United Methodist Church is bracing itself for a conference that will take on years of issues surrounding homosexuality.
This could potentially split the second largest denomination in the country.
Delegates will debate and then vote on multiple proposed plans that relate to homosexuality when it comes to ordination criteria and same gender weddings.
“No one knows what will happen when 864 delegates gather from all across the globe,” said Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett with the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church in a video online.
And it’s that uncertainty that’s creating a lot of questions and even more anxiety among United Methodist congregations and clergy.
“Some hope that we will change our church’s position on same-gender weddings and ordination criteria. Others hope that our position will remain the same,” Wallace-Padgett said.
In multiple videos on the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church’s website, Bishop Wallace-Padgett previewed the upcoming Special Session of General Conference, which is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination.
“These are challenging days in our world and in the church,” Wallace-Padgett said.
The challenge at hand? Finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences around homosexuality.
The Commission on a Way Forward has created multiple plans ranging from one that removes prohibitions against same-gender weddings and ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals," to a plan that maintains those prohibitions, and even allows the church to vote to stay or leave the UMC.
This special called general conference will happen in St. Louis starting next Saturday and will last through February 26.
The North Alabama Conference will send eight delegates.