Following a February conference that resulted in a maintained ban on full inclusion of LGBTQ+ members, whether or not the United Methodist Church (UMC) will split is still unclear.
On Feb. 26, UMC delegates from around the world voted to uphold a ban on the marriage of same-sex couples and the ordination of LGBTQ+ persons in the church. Members across the world expressed confusion over the church’s decision.
Then, on March 14, the New York Times released a report that said that at least four of the votes in the 54 vote winning margin were cast by individuals who shouldn’t have been eligible to vote. Even more, the Judicial Council of the UMC has yet to declare the decision constitutional. They are expected to do so in April.
Until then, the UMC hangs in a balance, with many church members unsure of what their future in the Church looks like. Bella Arango, a junior religion major, is inspired to stay based on her desire to see change happen.
“After the vote, I was super upset because I felt like there was no space for me in the United Methodist Church because I have this inclusivity that I want. And I want to be a great ally, but the church is hurting me,” Arango said. “But then I thought, if we don’t fight for this [LGBTQ+ inclusion], we’re not going to see it in our lifetime.”
There is also a potential for the church to split over this decision. The Western Jurisdiction of the church, which encompasses the western half of the United States, has stated that they will not abide by the conference’s decision. Following the split, the conference said, “We acknowledge the harm inflicted during this Special Session of General Conference, especially towards our LGBTQI siblings…we are committed to full inclusion of all God’s children in the body; we will not cut off a part of the body.”
While a split is not guaranteed, some Methodists feel positively towards the idea.
“Not only do I think a split would be wise, but I also think it’s necessary,” FSC sophomore and son of a UMC pastor Ben Juliano said. “The events in St. Louis a few weeks ago underlined divisions that have threatened to tear the Methodist church in this country apart for decades and they show no signs of ending. There comes a time, as painful as it may be, when it is necessary to part ways for the sake of the Gospel mission.”
Until the church decision is finalized and concrete, it is hard to say what the UMC will look like going forward. According to Waite Willis, Florida Southern’s chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, Florida Southern is not expected to change its policies in response to the decision.
“The school itself has its own policy that is not impacted by the vote of the General Conference. So the school will go right ahead being completely inclusive for employees as well as students,” Willis said.