BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The United Methodist Church is bracing itself for a vote that could possibly split the denomination as it takes on years of issues surrounding homosexuality.
The UMC’s “Commission on a Way Forward” will vote on multiple plans this weekend at its General Conference that range from removing prohibitions against same-gender weddings and ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" to a plan that maintains those prohibitions and even allows churches to vote to stay or leave the UMC.
Reverend Vaughn Stafford with Clearbranch UMC feels the church should stick with its traditions that date back decades.
"The opportunity for us to make a clear, concise, compelling commitment to following biblical principles. I’m far more concerned in landing on the right side of eternity than the right side of history. For us, this is a historical moment for sure but it also has eternal consequences,” Rev. Stafford said.
Senior Pastor Stephanie York Arnold with Birmingham’s First UMC believes in the One Church proposal, which would open up support for LGBT-inclusive practices but wouldn’t mandate individual churches or clergy to engage in it.
“The only gospel I know is of love and inclusion. I see this progression in scripture of humanity coming to understand the great wideness of God’s love which extends to all of creation,” she said.
The Special Session of General Conference is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. Even though both pastors we spoke with have differing views, they hope this decision will not divide the church.
"I do not believe that Christ is one second concerned. His church will prevail. The kingdom will move forward because no matter who is in the seats of leadership. He sovereign and seated on the thrown,” Rev. Stafford said.
"I have hope and expectation that on the other side of this we can work together as a whole and a healthy way and ministry to all people,” Rev, Arnold said.
This special-called general conference will take place in St. Louis starting Saturday through February 26. We’re told the North Alabama Conference will send eight delegates.