All means all: United Methodist Church split

According+to+the+Pew+Research+center%2C+the+percentage+of+Methodists+who+said+homosexuality+should+be+accepted+increased+from+51%25+to+60%25+between+2007+and+2014.

Annie George

According to the Pew Research center, the percentage of Methodists who said homosexuality should be accepted increased from 51% to 60% between 2007 and 2014.

An “I heart Jesus” lanyard with a rainbow ribbon and Black Lives Matter pin hangs around his neck and tattoos cover his arms. Recently, a man at the post office asked him what kind of motorcycle he drives. He doesn’t own one, he responds. He drives a green Dodge Caravan with two kids under 10 years old. When he visits his hometown in rural Iowa, people ask Associate Pastor Rev. Jess Horsley at what kind of church he preaches. The answer is this: Horsley is an Associate Pastor at Kirkwood United Methodist Church (KUMC). He has been for seven months.

KUMC is one of the United Methodist Churches across the country that affirms people who identify as LGBTQ+. A “Welcoming Statement” on their website states, “All are welcome, all are forgiven, and all are invited to believe…regardless of your… gender identity [or] sexual orientation.” 

“We want people to feel that they are not only welcome, but also celebrated.””

— Associate Pastor Jess Horsley

According to The News & Observer, tensions about language in the Book of Discipline (a book that states the laws and doctrine of the United Methodist Church) have been growing in the United Methodist Church over the topic of LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination in the church since the clause first addressing human sexuality was added in 1972.

According to a Jan. 3 United Methodist (UM) news article, a new proposal would allow “traditionalists” to continue their practices as a separate denomination. Horsley said he has not been discussing the topic of the proposals in-depth to the KUMC congregation because the General Conference is the governing body of the United Methodist Church, and until they meet and vote in May, no one knows what will happen next.

“I think [it’s] really been a goal of our United Methodist Church here in Kirkwood, to say ‘Everyone is always and forever welcome no matter who you are,’” Horsley said. “We want people to feel that they are not only welcome, but also celebrated.”

 According to the Pew Research center, the percentage of Methodists who said homosexuality should be accepted increased from 51% to 60% between 2007 and 2014. Though the future of  LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage in the Methodist church as a whole remains unclear, Becca Daye, KHS senior and KUMC congregation member, said she has always felt that KUMC is a safe space.

“From my point of view, the mission of every church is to be accepting.””

— Luc Daniels

“From the conversations I’ve had with people in my youth group, it seems like people are pretty much in the same mindset,” Daye said. “There’s other people who like going to KUMC  because it seems like a very accepting place, and it’s a supportive group to be in as a part of the youth.”

As an LGBTQ+ person, Daye said she hopes to see the proposal pass in 2020 so the church will become officially more accepting. Though she said it was disappointing that The One Church Plan (aimed to allow more LGBTQ+ inclusion without separation) lost in a 47% to 53% vote at the 2019 General Conference (which was called to discuss the topic of LGBTQ+ persons in the church)  she said a conversation among delegates was exciting. 

“I think [that] in the past few years LGBT[Q+] issues have been a big part of the conversation with [the question]: ‘What is our church going to do with this?’” Daye said. “It’s creating a lot of tension in some ways, [but] it’s making people feel more accepted.”

Luc Daniels, congregation member and junior, said most KUMC youth share the same view on LGBTQ+ acceptance. Both Daniels and Daye don’t expect much to change at KUMC.

“From my point of view, the mission of every church is to be accepting,” Daniels said. “ I feel like churches can’t really do that without accepting people who identify as LGBTQ+. It really pains me to see that some older people with more traditional values don’t believe that that is [the case].”

“[The United Methodist Church’s]  goal is always to transform lives, to build relationships with God and other people; and I truly believe that every conference in the global United Methodist Church is doing that in many different ways.””

— Associate Pastor Rev. Jess Horsley

Horsley said the Kirkwood United Methodist Church community has intentionally created a place where all people are affirmed and welcomed. He believes everyone still has a lot of learning to do on how to understand each other better.

“[The United Methodist Church’s]  goal is always to transform lives, to build relationships with God and other people; and I truly believe that every conference in the global United Methodist Church is doing that in many different ways,” Horsley said. “What [the church] is trying to do now is find a way for all of those conferences and individual churches to do it in the most efficient, most effective way possible in their own individual communities and context.”