WASHINGTON – Union United Methodist Church in Boston made history by voting to become the nation’s first black Methodist church to officially welcome and include gay and lesbian worshipers.
“This is a courageous, precedent-setting decision that blazes a new trail for other churches who want to be more inclusive and accepting of their gay and lesbian members,” said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. “This vote – combined with the resolution by the Central Conference on American Rabbis to allow same-sex weddings – shows that there is a growing trend towards religious inclusion that cuts across denominational lines.”
The Union United Church, a 125-member institution led by Rev. Theodore L. Lockhart, voted to become a “reconciling and inclusive” church – a term that essentially means a church that accepts and affirms gay and lesbian people. Hilda Evans, a 61 year old married woman with two adult children, suggested in 1996 that the church become “reconciling and inclusive” and led the effort that ended in a successful vote. The church is holding a special service on April 16 to celebrate the decision.
Other black United Methodist Churches may follow their lead. According to the Washington Blade, San Francisco’s Glide United Methodist Church is considering a vote to recognize and include gay and lesbian worshippers.
As an institution, the United Methodist Church has a long way to go before they are accepting of gays and lesbians, according to HRC. They are officially against same-sex marriage and a United Methodist Minister cannot perform these unions. The denomination also does not “condone” the “practice of homosexuality,” and sexually active gay people cannot be ordained as ministers.
“The vote by Union United Methodist Church shows that even within the more strict religious institutions there is a diversity of opinions on gay and lesbian issues,” said Donna Payne, HRC field organizer, working with people of color and the religious community. “Religious views on homosexuality are not monolithic, and people of faith are increasingly speaking out in favor of full-inclusion for gay and lesbians worshipers in churches, synagogues and mosques throughout America.”