At least 70 Methodist ministers have signed a petition in Iowa protesting the church’s stand on homosexuality and gay marriage — although only 500 people total signed it — saying the strict interpretation of Scripture on the subject no longer applies in today’s world.
According to the Des Moines Register
, the pastors were joined by only 430 churchgoers who signed as well in what amounted to a public protest against a statement released at a May 4 United Methodist Church leaders’ conference in Tampa, Fla.
The petition, circulated by a group called Do No Harm Iowa, gathered the signatures on Sunday to declare its opposition to a vote at the conference reconfirming that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
“There are so many pieces of Scripture we no longer abide by because we have a different context,” the Rev. Diane McClanahan, who serves as a spokesperson for the group, told the Register.
The Methodist church continues to formally ban same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay clergy, the Register noted. The petition was interpreted by some church leaders as a pledge by signing pastors to begin performing marriages of same-sex couples.
The Rev. Bill Burkhart, a conference administrator representing Iowa, declined to say what might happen if church pastors carry through with the threat. But he suggested debate on the issue would continue within the church.
“It’s part of our tradition to hear takes from people on all different issues,” Burkhart said.
The petition signed by the pastors left little doubt about their intentions.
“By discriminating against, diminishing, or demeaning our sisters and brothers in the family of faith, we are in an impossible situation and will be faithful to the law as interpreted by Jesus rather than comply with [church rules],” the petition read.
“While we are deeply saddened that non-compliance with church law has become necessary, we live in hope that the day will not be long in coming when our church will remember its roots and once more be guided by grace, committed to justice, and led by love.”
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