Delegates to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church on Wednesday chose to defer voting on proposed changes to a number of doctrinal rules regarding LGBT issues. Over 900 delegates gathered for the quadrennial General Conference, which acts as the ultimate arbiter of church policy. The UMC claims over 12 million members globally and is the third largest Christian denomination in the United States.
The Book of Discipline of the UMC currently states that homosexuality is “incompatible” with Christian teaching, a position progressive Methodists have attempted to change multiple times. Rather than consider their proposals this year, where they again were likely to be defeated, the General Conference approved a proposal from the Council of Bishops to create “a special Commission to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.” A special General Conference may then be called to vote on LGBT issues.
The UMC is increasingly split on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity between a more-progressive American contingent and rapidly growing churches in Africa and Asia. This move was seen as a way to begin a dialogue for allowing some regional differences on LGBT issues and avoid a global schism in the Church.