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United Methodist Church removes ban on LGBTQ+ clergy members as part of historic changes

Although the new doctrine doesn’t explicitly affirm LGBTQ+ clergy, it does prevent the church from prohibiting their inclusion.
Park Hill United Methodist Church
Posted at 10:45 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 07:47:26-04

DENVER — The United Methodist Church on Tuesday approved a series of historic changes to its policies on sexuality. The delegates voted to remove a ban on ordaining LGBTQ+ members as clergy, a decades-old rule.

The vote occurred at the General Conference, with over 90% of the delegates voting to end the ban. Although the new doctrine doesn’t explicitly affirm LGBTQ+ clergy, it does prevent the church from prohibiting their inclusion.

Additionally, the group voted to allow the performance of same-sex weddings and removed language from church documents that said homosexuality was "incompatible with Christian Teachings." The change takes effect following the end of the conference on Friday.

“The idea that language that was harmful and horrible on reflecting people's identity has been removed, that is a day of celebration," said Pastor Bradley Lauvrik, the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church of Fort Collins.

Laurvick is one of many church leaders who advocated for the changes. In 2022, Laurvick left the Denver school board after Bishop Karen Oliveto appointed him as lead pastor in Fort Collins.

"The reason I'm a clergy person is because I wanted every person in the world to know there was a place they could go to be loved and accepted," said Laurvick.

Oliveto is no stranger to the debate over LGBTQ+ church membership.

"Every single day for 42 years, I worried that this would be the day that my ordination is stripped from me," said Oliveto.

Oliveto started her ministry at age 11, but her service was put in doubt due to church policies. She is the first openly lesbian bishop for UMC and previously served at a church in San Francisco. She also taught United Methodist studies.

After the most recent vote, Oliveto has focused on helping the church fully accept LGBTQ+ members.

"We just are so excited that we're now free as a denomination to stop in-fighting and share God's generous love with others," she said.

The denomination was previously the third largest in the United States but has lost a significant amount of members since 2019. It also lost more than 7,000 churches between 2019 to 2023 due to changing policies. Oliveto said 38 churches in her region disaffiliated during that time.

Despite the loss, Oliveto said they're focused on welcoming new members with the church's more accepting policies.

"We don't believe that unity requires uniformity, but it does require us to recognize that God is within each person," said Oliveto.

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