Historic Votes at United Methodist Conference Reflect Local Churches’ Existing Stance on Diversity

The United Methodist Church (UMC) made world news in May when members voted overwhelmingly to reverse actions taken 40 and 50 years earlier against gay clergy members, same-sex unions, and homosexuality on principle.

It was welcome news to local UMC congregations, but it didn’t change much for either Fall City or Snoqualmie United Methodist Churches. For years, these two small congregations have held to their own standard: “Everyone, everyone, everyone is welcome in our church and at our Communion table,” said Snoqualmie UMC member Marcia Bennet-Reinert.

The Rev. Carrie Bland, who serves both Fall City and Snoqualmie, said, “God loves each and every one of their children as they are and has filled them with the gifts and skills to do the good they were created to do in this world. At Fall City and Snoqualmie United Methodist Churches, you will never be told that you are unloveable, unwanted, or turned away. God created you and said that you are supremely good. How could any of us tell you differently?”

The decisions made at the General Conference, April 23 to May 3 in North Carolina are effective immediately and include allowing openly gay candidates to be considered for ordination – but not requiring congregations to accept an openly gay minister, redefining marriage to allow for same-sex unions, eliminating a mandatory penalty for ministers officiating at same-sex unions, and removing a 1972 addition of anti-homosexual language to the Book of Discipline, the church’s collected teachings on policy and doctrine.

Much of the vote centered on sections of Article IV, Inclusiveness of the Church, paragraph 304.3: “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

Within the UMC, however, congregations are appointed a pastor and govern themselves according to the Book of Discipline, which can be changed through a legislative process. In the 1980s, a handful of UMC congregations formed the rapidly growing Reconciling Ministries Network, “committed to LGBTQ+ justice and inclusion,” according to its website.

Both Fall City and Snoqualmie joined the network in the 2010s by votes of the congregation. Snoqualmie has completed the process to be registered as a reconciling congregation, and Fall City is in the final steps to becoming registered. As part of the process, the two congregations have also adopted similar welcome statements, inviting people of every age, race/ethnic background, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, and marital and economic status.

“In our communities, we see that everyone is created in God’s image, and we’ve been given the gift of diversity,” said Pastor Bland. “We treasure that gift and welcome all community members.”

As the Reconciling Ministries Network grew to more than 1,400 affiliated congregations in the U.S. today, the UMC began to consider changes to its anti-LGBTQ+ stance. The group would have discussed it at the 2020 General Conference if not for the COVID pandemic. Conference leaders developed a path to disaffiliation for churches opposed to updating church doctrine.

From 2019 to 2023, more than 7,000 churches that wanted to keep the prohibitions in place left the global UMC organization. As of the 2024 General Conference, the disaffiliation process has been ended. There are more than 30,000 UMC congregations in the U.S. and more than 39,000 worldwide.

Fall City United Methodist Church, founded in August 1885, is located at 4326 337th Pl SE, Fall City. Learn more at https://www.fallcityunitedmethodistchurch.org/

Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, founded in 1889, is located at 38701 SE River St, Snoqualmie. Learn more at https://www.snoqualmieumc.org.  

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  • This is good news indeed!

    May all the beloved of God find their home in the Beloved Community.

  • Living Snoqualmie