Fallout continues from Methodist ban on same-sex marriage and gay clergy

DOVER — The congregation has gay members, including some in leadership positions.

Senior Pastor Amy Yarnall accepts that some Wesley United Methodist Church members aren’t entirely comfortable with that, and that’s OK too.

At its recent national conference in St. Louis, Missouri, Methodist delegates barely approved measures to ban same-sex marriage and gay clergy.

In Dover, at least, the congregation of over 700 remains outwardly accepting of different lifestyles.

“I have been very grateful for the church’s overall sense of wanting to be welcoming,” said Pastor Yarnall, stressing that she spoke publicly of her own views, not other members.

“Members on either side have felt a sense of safety in being able to express their opinions and continue to maintain an overall welcoming attitude.”

Many area Methodist pastors felt the vote for exclusion was troubling, even if it came by a roughly 51 percent to 49 percent margin. The latest conference marked a continued trend toward enhanced inclusion but Pastor Yarnall said, “I’ve seen a sea change in my 21 years as a pastor, but I’m not sure a more significant change will come in this lifetime.”

Also in her opinion, Pastor Yarnall said, “The general conference did not communicate the grace and love of Jesus Christ by failing to allow the church to have diversity in regards to the LGBT community in regards to voting to retain and strengthen restrictions.”

Pastor Yarnall believes some members not so vocal about the matter are speaking up and others not quite so sure of their stance are coming around to futher inclusion, and that rates as progress.

In earlier public comments, Pastors Sally Stewart of the Felton-Viola UMC, Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Methodist Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference, the Rev. Dale Brown of Smyrna’s Asbury church and Rehoboth-based Rev. Todd Shultz of Epworth espoused similar views.

Attempts to reach Wyoming UMC and Magnolia’ Orchard Church for insight and reaction were unsuccessful.

Discussions continue, and the vote still needs to be accepted by the Methodist’s version of the Supreme Court in late April.

“The next step forward includes some of the nation’s largest Methodist churches leaving churches and going out on their own,” Pastor Yarnall said. “That’s not the preferred action by the center or left, but it’s on the table for discussion.”

The Associated Press stated that the recent stance to hold traditional views might spark a number of defections and defiance among some churches nationwide.

Pointing to stalemates and polarization among U.S. Congress members, Pastor Yarnall saw similarities within the UMC.

“It’s really a feeling that we are stuck in neutral as other branches are elsewhere,” she said.

Pastor Sally Stewart of the Felton-Viola UMC said membership has had discussions in “bible studies, leadership meetings and preaching.”

At the national conference, United States members leaned more heavily toward furthering inclusion as opposed to the general world view in a Traditional Plan.

If the bans were eased, “the church in Africa would cease to exist,” said the Rev. Jerry Kulah of Liberia in an Associated Press story. “We can’t do anything but to support the Traditional Plan — it is the biblical plan.”

In an AP story, Council of Bishops President Kenneth H. Carter, speaking at a news conference after the session, said the meeting was necessary “because if the impasse we found ourselves in” over questions of human sexuality.

“I would just simply say that we have work to do. We did not accomplish that in these three days,” Carter said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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