A separation in the Methodist church, a denomination long home to a varied mix of left and right, had been brewing for years, if not decades. It had become widely seen as likely after a contentious general conference in St. The United Methodist Church is only the latest denomination to be roiled with intense and exhausting theological disputes over the place of L. Such fights have led to an exodus of congregations from Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in recent years, and pushed young evangelicals and Catholics to leave the pews as well. Once the agreement is written in more granular detail, it must be approved when the denomination meets for its global conference in Minneapolis in May.
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When the Rev. Mark Thompson resolved to come out of the closet more than a decade ago, he was 50 years old. Thompson was a pastor of a United Methodist Church in Lansing, Michigan, with a wife and three adult children. But he had reached a spiritual impasse in which he could no longer deny his true identity. The year was He said some church leaders were supportive of his coming out as gay, while others encouraged him to remain in the closet.
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While most Christian churches ban the ordination of sexually active LGB clergy because they view homosexuality as incompatible with biblical doctrine and do not allow those identifying as transgender to be ordained for the same reason,  a growing number of churches are allowing openly LGBT clergy to serve. In , the United Church of Christ became the first mainline Protestant denomination in the United States to ordain an openly gay clergy person. The Episcopal Church in the United States and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ have also allowed ordination of openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry for some years. The issue of ordination has caused particular controversy in the worldwide Anglican communion, following the election of the Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson in the US Episcopal Church.
The congregation voted to disaffiliate in September , with members voting in favor and seven members voting in opposition, according to information from Asbury Memorial Church. Originally from Savannah, the Rev. They had a theater background, so they went with what they knew. We just had a very elderly small congregation.