Megachurch pastor and author Adam Hamilton has speculated that The United Methodist Church (UMC) will lose between 3,400 and 7,500 congregations this year due to debate over the church body’s stance on homosexuality. Hamilton’s congregation, the Church of the Resurrection, which is the largest UMC congregation in the United States, recently held its annual Leadership Institute gathering with approximately 2,400 clergy and lay leaders in attendance. A key issue of the event was the future of the UMC in light of its ongoing debate over its official opposition to homosexuality, gay marriage and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Hamilton noted there were currently some 34,000 congregations in the UMC. Hamilton told those gathered that after the next General Conference there will be “between 3,400 and 7,500 less churches.” Hamilton reasoned that between 3,400 and 6,800 congregations will leave the UMC in protest to join a new conservative denomination while another 300 to 1,000 churches will decide that the denomination is not inclusive enough. An opponent of the current UMC Book of Discipline, Hamilton said that he believed the Book will be changed next year. “We are going to remove from it the language that is harmful to human beings,” declared Hamilton, to applause from the audience.
Hamilton urged cooperation and unity among conservatives, progressives and centrists in the UMC. “If we’re conservative without being liberal, we’re stuck,” he said. “And if we’re liberal without being conservative, we’re unmoored.” “At Church of the Resurrection, we have Republicans and Democrats running for office against each other. There’s something beautiful about that.” At the last general conference a majority of the delegates voted in favour of “The Traditional Plan.” This plan involved maintaining the denomination’s official position against homosexuality, gay marriage and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals while promising stricter enforcement.
A rejected proposal, called “The One Church Plan,” would have allowed congregations to determine their own stance on homosexuality. Some of the proposed legislation headed to next year’s General Conference seeks to overturn the Traditional Plan. Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC of Charlotte, North Carolina, supports the plan. “I am delighted that the General Conference adopted the Traditional Plan as we believe in celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture” said Davis. “We gladly join with our global brothers and sisters in teaching this truth with as much love and winsomeness as we can.”
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