Houston Matters

Houston United Methodists React To Denomination’s Decision To Bar LGBTQ Clergy

The church’s General Conference has also approved a plan to define marriage as the union of man and woman. It also adds more punitive accountability measures regarding officiating same sex marriages.

Protestors chant during the United Methodist Church’s special session of the general conference in St. Louis, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

Two Houston pastors interviewed by Houston Matters on Friday weighed in on the decision by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and to add more punitive accountability measures regarding officiating same sex marriages. Additionally, LGBTQ+ individuals are still ineligible for ordination.

The decision was reached at the meeting held in St. Louis this week by the church's General Conference. After several hours of debate, the conservatives’ proposal, called the Traditional Plan, was approved by a vote of 438-384.

John Stephens, senior pastor at Houston's Chapelwood United Methodist Church, told Houston Matters that his congregation is very diverse and that when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in 2015 the dialogue changed within the church.

Stephens, who describes himself as a “centrist,” said he could accept that pastors officiate same sex weddings and he finds that the decision by the General Conference has hurt LGBTQ+ individuals. “What they hear in this is that: ‘I’m not loved, I can’t be a part of this church’,” he noted.

Some members of the United Methodist church say that embracing practices that are friendly towards LGBTQ+ individuals would be allowing sin in the church, according to Stephens, who thinks the issue of homosexuality “is right at the forefront of our cultural angst.”

“We live in a country where same sex marriage is legal. Now, as a church, we can build our walls higher and say who we want to let in or want to let out or not go out into the world and be in ministry. I just don’t, I fundamentally don’t agree with that. I don’t think that’s missional,” Stephens added.

In a post published on his blog, the pastor said he thinks the conversation about changing the Methodist church to accept LGBTQ+ individuals will continue.

Rev. Hannah Terry, of Westbury United Methodist Church and St. Mark’s Methodist Church, told Houston Matters Host Craig Cohen that people are “anxious” and feel hurt by the decision. She emphasized that she supports people in the church that are LGBTQ+ “all the way.”

Terry said the Westbury congregation has a history of including all people, going back to the civil rights era when the congregation welcomed African American families into the church. “The general conference does not change that,” she said.

“I am really concerned about the LGBTQ community,” Terry said, and added she is particularly concerned about “clergy that are queer and lay members that are queer.”

After the meeting of the General Conference, Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, said he is concerned the plan approved this week will cause progressive churches to leave the denomination.

Asked about a potential formal split in Houston congregations from the denomination and the General Conference, Terry responded: “I don’t know.”

With nearly 7 million members, the United Methodist church is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required