The judicial council of the United Methodist Church (UMC) decided on Friday (April 26) to uphold the “Traditional Plan,” which solidifies the church’s ban on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ pastors, according to Religion News.
The plan, which was originally voted on in February, was reviewed during the spring meeting of the council, running Tuesday to Friday in Illinois and the court ruled that seven of 17 petitions of the plan were unconstitutional. However, the bulk of the plan was upheld and will be implemented at the start of 2020.
Rules upheld include prohibiting bishops from ordaining “self-avowed homosexuals” and clerics from performing same-sex marriages – those that do can be suspended without pay for the first offense and ousted from the ministry for any consequent offense.
Bishop Ken Carter, the president of the church’s Council of Bishops, expressed gratitude for the ruling in a statement.
“The Judicial Council’s decisions are clear and sound, and they give helpful guidance to the Church,” Carter wrote.
Meanwhile, LGBTQ advocacy groups denounced the decision.
This ruling from The United Methodist Church's Judicial Council is deeply disappointing for countless LGBTQ Methodists, including young people and their families, who are yearning for a welcoming church family. https://t.co/s6TCWhxQtU
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 26, 2019
Opponents of the Traditional Plan will have the chance to overturn in at the UMC general conference in May 2020, however it is likely the conservative side of UMC will be even stronger then, Traditional Plan supporter Rev. Tom Lambrecht told AP.
This decision may prompt a separation of the church – UMC-Next, a group of those in opposition to the decision, has reportedly been holding meetings to discuss the next steps. The group’s leaders say that either the pro-LGBTQ members leave and form and new denomination or they stay and resist from within, prompting conservative members to depart.
While it is unclear which group – traditional or non-traditional – will prompt the separation and creation of a new denomination, Lambrecht said his faction will not be leaving.