SPRINGFIELD — United Methodist churches in Springfield and Bloomington dealt with the impact after last week’s vote for the denomination to strengthen anti-LGBTQ rules.
Rockford area Methodist ministers also pushed back last week.
Hope Church in Bloomington was disappointed in the vote.
“There are a lot of churches who will say anyone is welcome through the door. You can get a handshake, you can drink the coffee but are you fully involved in the life of the church? When we say full inclusion, we mean full inclusion. Leadership positions, marriages,” said Rev. Dr. Jennie Edwards Bertrand, Lead Pastor at Hope United Methodist Church.
President of the Council of Bishops shared a message on social media soon after the decision saying he is present with those who are grieving.
“We continue to teach and believe that all persons are welcome in the church. All persons have sacred worth. Persons in the LGBTQ community have sacred worth and all are welcome to receive the ministry of Jesus,” said Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
At Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church in Springfield, the lead pastor is preaching for caution right now, but keeping options open. Rev. Julia Melgreen told the State Journal-Register she had a “foreboding” about the vote.
From the State Journal-Register:
“Going (into last week), I knew how the votes were aligned,” Melgreen said, in an interview in her church office. “I knew what the outcome was likely to be, but what was surprising was, even knowing that for a few years, I was still shattered (by the vote). It still took my breath away.
“I guess I hoped.”
That vote toughened the denomination’s prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Church policy states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Pastors like Melgreen are preaching caution for now, mindful that emotions are running high while legalities still have to be worked out this coming spring.
But the Springfield congregation, at some point, is likely, Melgreen said, to gather information about “possible other options” available.
The church held a meeting Sunday morning to sort out information about the General Conference, but it also was reaffirmation of its stance of being a welcoming body, especially for the LGBTQ community.
″(They have) to figure some things out,” Melgreen acknowledged. “I’m not sure they’re able to stay anymore when the denomination says so clearly that they are ‘less than.’
“There’s going to be a place for LGBTQ people, for them to be safe and loved, if not in this denomination, then in others.”