The declining, liberal dominated Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) of United Methodism, meeting in Charleston, WV, this week, has declared defiance against the church’s teaching on sexual ethics.
Meanwhile, evangelicals in the jurisdiction have declared their fidelity to the church’s stance.
Sixty one percent of the 227 delegates vowed their dissent. “Leaders of the conferences that comprise our jurisdiction, including cabinet members, bishops and members of boards and agencies of the annual conference, while bound to the Book of Discipline, are also bound to exercise their consciences and are bound by Jesus’s commandment to stand with the marginalized and the oppressed in our midst when called upon to enforce unjust laws, policies and procedures to the detriment of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals wishing to participate fully in the life of The United Methodist Church and those who minister faithfully to them; and be it further resolved, that the jurisdictional conference recognize that individuals who take punitive actions against others for offering the sacraments and rituals of the church on an equal basis do so contrary to the highest ideals of the United Methodist Church at the risk of causing grave harm to LGBT persons, their loved ones, their sisters and brothers in Christ, faithful clergy and the United Methodist Church itself.”
Shortly after the NEJ vote, the Northeast Jurisdiction Evangelical Connection (NEJEC) of United Methodists released its own statement:
“The NEJEC is disappointed with the “Statement of Principle” concerning LGBT issues that was adopted today by the Northeast Jurisdiction (NEJ) of the United Methodist Church. This statement stands in opposition to the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. A Jurisdictional Conference does not have the authority to speak in a manner contrary to the General Conference of the denomination. Therefore, we do not believe this statement can be implemented or enforced in any way. The position of the United Methodist Church on human sexuality has not changed. It remains consistent with 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian ethical tradition and continues to reflect the overwhelming consensus of opinion by Christians of all denominations world-wide. We call on all bishops and clergy members in the Northeast Jurisdiction to be faithful to their vows and continue to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the denomination.”
The NEJEC is a network of evangelical United Methodists from throughout the jurisdiction, including several delegates to the 2012 NEJ Conference. Despite the NEJ vote defying the church on sexual ethics, one of its three newly elected bishops is a graduate of Asbury Seminary and considered evangelical. Rev. Mark Webb of York, PA, was elected after a prolonged gridlock that culminated with 35 ballots.
NEJ as of 2010 had 1.3 million members and had lost 15 percent of its membership since 2000. United Methodism has 7.6 million members in the U.S. and over 4.4 million outside the U.S.