Wisconsin delegates say decision on LGBT issues shows division within United Methodist Church

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SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — In a close and controversial vote Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted to uphold the church’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy.

Along with representatives from around the world, six Wisconsin delegates attended the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis, but as they return home this week many say the plan that went through isn’t the plan they support.

At 438-384 the conference voted to pass the “Traditional Plan” which, among other things, strengthens the enforcement of language in the rulebook stating “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and reinforces the ban that “practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as ministers, appointed to serve or be married in the church.

Sam Royappa, Director of Connectional Ministries with the Wisconsin Conference in Sun Prairie, said that vote meant the special conference ended without accomplishing its goal.

“The purpose of this conference was to resolve the deadlock so that we could really focus on the mission of the church,” he said.

Instead, Royappa said the deadlock continued. The church showed it was split when it comes to the place of the LGBTQ community within the faith.

“It’s a matter of tension between inclusion and exclusion,” he said.

Royappa said he voted in favor of the “One Church Plan” along with fellow delegate, Dan Dick, the assistant to the bishop with the Wisconsin conference.

The “One Church Plan” would allow individual churches to decide if they would allow LGBTQ clergy or same-sex marriage.

“This really is at the heart of what we mean when we talk about being a church that reaches out to all,” Dick said.

He said he wants any LGBTQ members to know they should still feel accepted in their churches but he said he understands why the church has already received some backlash.

“To those who feel they cannot stay it breaks my heart,” Dick said.

For those who want to stay, he said there’s still work to be done.

“We failed to make it an open, welcoming church at this time, but we’re not finished,” he said. “We’re not done.”

While the vote is final, Royappa said the policy is not.

He said a judicial council still needs to approve the plan and even if it does, he expects the issue to resurface at the next conference in 2020.

“Still there is a lot of hope for the table to be reopened,” Royappa said.

A judicial council will look over the plan in April. Members can choose to reject the plan altogether if they feel it doesn’t match the church’s constitution.

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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