MEDFORD, Ore. — A trio of United Methodist churches in Southern Oregon are declaring their intent to stand with the LGBTQ+ community as the denomination grows ever nearer to an irrevocable schism.
"United Methodists in Southern Oregon had hoped for a future where the church could be united in its acceptance and welcome of LGBTQIA+ people," the three local churches said in a statement. "The United Methodist Churches in Ashland, Grants Pass, and Medford stand united in proclaiming welcome to LGBTQIA+ people in the life, ministry, and leadership of their congregations."
The split has been coming since at least February of 2019, when an international conference of the United Methodist Church met to vote on banning or keeping same-sex weddings and allowing for gay clergy members. The denomination, in all, boasts almost 13 million members across the globe.
While parts of the church — particularly in the U.S. — has been increasingly socially progressive and accepting of the gay community, a majority of the international church voted in support of the bans. The issue immediately became a heartbreaking schism between different chapters of the denomination.
According to three local United Methodist churches, a plan was released on January 4 called the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." The proposal would allow churches that refuse to include LGBTQ+ people to leave, splitting the denomination.
Clergy from Ashland First UMC, Medford First UMC, and Newman UMC in Grants Pass all signed on to Wednesday's statement. The issue at hand has "plagued" the Church for decades, they said.
“We are deeply committed to be churches that welcome all people from all walks of life,” said Reverend Ryan Scott, who was the first openly gay pastor assigned to Newman United Methodist Church in Grants Pass. “LGBTQIA+ people are made in the image of God and ought to be welcomed and affirmed in our congregations. We cannot keep denying their leadership or their love.”
In a joint address, clergy from the three churches said the following:
As clergy representing the inclusive United Methodist Churches of Southern Oregon, we stand united in our commitment to serve the LGBTQIA+ community. This includes celebrating same-gender weddings and supporting LGBTQIA+ clergy in our denomination. Our congregations will continue to be places of welcome and hospitality to all people. We will seek to persevere in our ministry with people who are oppressed, marginalized, or otherwise maligned from the church and society. We, wholeheartedly, believe that Christ lives within the hearts of our LGBTQIA+ siblings just the same as anyone else. Furthermore, we reject the idea that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and celebrate the life, leadership, and love of LGBTQIA+ people everywhere.