Briefing: United Methodist Church votes for same-sex equality but still divided

The decision by the United Methodist Church to row back on anti-gay legislation dating back 50 years came after overwhelming votes in favour at the general conference in Charlotte. But the picture that paints of a “super liberal, progressive” church with all traditionalists having left, is not accurate, according to researchers who have tested the opinions of clergy and congregations.

Drs Joseph Roso and David Eagle from Duke University were among the panellists at our Religion Media Centre briefing and explained their research, conducted in North Carolina in 2021. They found both clergy and congregations of those that remain are divided – but determined to stay. This leaves ministers who have to bridge the divide and keep everyone together, suffering high levels of stress with half more likely to report symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, and others experiencing burnout or a desire to leave.

Their most recent research indicates the situation has calmed down and clergy are finding ways to navigate the terrain. The briefing also discussed the decision to give each global region the power to make decisions according to their culture, a 40 per cent budget cut after disaffiliation and Covid, the vote in favour of moving to full communion with the Episcopalian church, and the view of a British delegate that the votes marked a moment of rebirth for the United Methodist Church.

Ruth Peacock hosted this briefing with guests:

  • Heather Hahn, United Methodist News, assistant news editor
  • Steven Adair, Director of Local Church Services, United Methodist Communications
  • Rev Lindsey Baynham Freeman, lead of the Virginia delegation and chair of the Ordained Ministry Legislative
  • Dr Joseph Roso, and Dr David Eagle, Duke University
  • Rev Jennifer Smith, superintendent minister, Wesley’s Chapel, London
  • Bishop Mande Muyombo, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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