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United Methodist Church lifts ban on LGBT clergy

by Tola Mbakwe
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In a landmark decision, the United Methodist Church in the US has repealed its longstanding ban on LGBT clergy.

The vote, which took place at its General Conference on Wednesday, saw delegates vote 692-51 in favour of removing the rule that stopped "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from becoming ministers.

The move marks a departure from decades of controversy and internal debate within the Church. Previous General Conferences had reinforced the ban amidst heated discussions and protests. However, a shift in the denomination's direction was evident at this year's conference, following the exit of many conservatives who had previously supported the ban.

There was an eruption of applause in parts of the convention hall when the voting results were announced.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church, was among those celebrating outside the Charlotte Convention Centre, where the Conference was being held.

She told UM News: “I have loved this church, even when it didn’t quite know how to love me back. I loved it because it was a vessel of God’s grace, in spite of its flaws.

“I loved it still even when it suddenly made God’s love conditional through harmful language about LGBTQ people and the way it sought to limit our role in its life and ministry.”

Additionally, a measure was approved preventing district superintendents from penalizing clergy who perform same-sex weddings or choose not to do so. It also stops superintendents from dictating whether a church can host a same-sex wedding.

The new rules, which only apply to the Church in the US, take effect on Friday when the General Conference ends.  

The United Methodist Church has 10 million members globally, with around 50 per cent of them the US.

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