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The United Methodists have removed language critical of homosexuality from their official teachings on societal matters

LGBTQ community and their allies gather outside the convention center (David Gleeson/Getty Images)

United Methodist delegates made a significant change on Thursday by removing a 52-year-old statement from their official social teachings. This statement had declared that “the practice of homosexuality … incompatible with Christian teaching.” This move is part of a series of historic reversals in the church’s longstanding disapproval of LGBTQ activity.

In addition to this change, delegates also approved a new definition of marriage as a covenant between “two people of faith,” which can include couples that do not necessarily involve a man and a woman. This new definition replaces the previous one that exclusively defined marriage as heterosexual. The decision followed a debate that revealed tensions between delegates from the United States and those from other countries.

The vote to approve these changes occurred during the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in Charlotte, on the second-to-last day of their 11-day legislative gathering.

David Bard presides at a session (Tim Smith/Shutterstock)

The day before this vote, the General Conference had lifted its ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from becoming ministers, continuing their process of removing anti-LGBTQ language from official church documents.

Despite the approval of the new marriage definition, there was significant debate and a compromise amendment, which was a rare occurrence during this mostly progressive conference.

While some delegates like Nimia Peralta from the Northwest Philippines emphasized that marriage is designed by God to be between a man and a woman and cannot be regionally adjusted, others like Rev. James Howell of Western North Carolina supported the new inclusive language.

Howell argued that being accepting of people loved by others is crucial for the church’s credibility with young adults and skeptics.

Rev. Kalaba Chali from Kansas noted that the principles approved are broad enough to accommodate different cultural contexts without imposing uniformity in how things are done.

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