KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The United Methodist Church's decision Tuesday to continue a same-sex marriage ban and enforce harsher penalties on clergy who officiate such marriages sent shock waves through the LGBTQ community.
It also had the pastor from the Kansas City area's largest congregation speaking out against the decision and hinting a split from the church during a meeting Saturday at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in downtown Kansas City.
“The view that gay and lesbian people will not be fully welcomed at our church and treated as second class has no future in the United Methodist Church and at many churches,” United Methodist Church of the Resurrection Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton said.
He spoke to a packed house at the church's first gathering since the vote, which passed by a 53 to 47 margin, to ban same sex marriage in the church.
“I was working against the policy that I felt was a regressive policy,” Hamilton said.
New rules, including a financial penalty and possible excommunication from the church for those who violate the policy, also passed earlier this week.
“Being part of the LGBT community, I felt very isolated and personally hurt by things that were voted on,” church member Caleb Herman said.
Fellow church member Chris Curry, who is gay, added: “We consider our marriage sacred and covenant and we believe in following Jesus and we think that our faith is compatible with Christianity."
Hamilton describessaid he believes the vote happened because the growing areas of the church, for example in Africa, are more conservative than in the U.S., where two-thirds of voting members did not support the ban.
“I think it's more possible than I ever imagined that there would be a split," Hamilton said of the future of the church. "I literally have hundreds, maybe thousands, of text messages, tweets, other (messages) from folks at other churches across the country saying, 'We've got to do something different. This is not OK.'"
The uncertainty of the church's future also weighs heavily on Hamilton's congregation.
“I feel like conservatives have a place in the church, too, so I don't feel like division is what we need, but we just need to understand better on how we can be inclusive,” church member Mandi Veys said.
Curry likened the possibility of a split to “a divorce," adding, "You have to split up property, and people would go in different directions and it would be a painful proces."
Many members said they must lean even more on their faith during a time of turmoil.
“God will move us in the direction that we need to go,” Herman said.
Hamilton said options other than leaving the church include pushing back to try and overturn the vote or seeking to restructure the church to allow conservative and progressive members as well as those in the middle to coexist.
“It should be a place for everyone and, if you can’t have a church with opposite ends of opinion, it's not an open and inclusive environment and nobody is ever going to move forward doing that,” church member Jordan Elliott said.
The last option Hamilton suggested would be holding back funding from the organizations pushing for the ban in an effort to spark change within the church ahead of the next annual conference in Minneapolis next year.