The United Methodist Church's History and Views on Human Sexuality


     The United Methodist Church affirms that
            “sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons.”
     This affirmation begins the denomination’s statement on Human Sexuality.

     The UMC affirms that “all people are of sacred worth” and are equally valuable in the sight of God.”  We are committed to be in ministry with all people.”  The UMC also “implores families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

     The constitution of the United Methodist Church contains an article dedicated to “inclusiveness within the church.”  “Everyone is welcome to worship and actively participate in the life of our churches.”

     Individuals may become members and live out their faith through their local church “without respect to sexual orientation or practice.”  In 2005, the Council of Bishops released a pastoral letter to the denomination stating that “gay and lesbian people are not to be excluded from church membership.”

     The UMC also “deplores acts of hate and violence against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity” and believes “human rights and civil liberties are due all people, regardless of sexual orientation.”  In 2015, the UMC openly celebrated the federal legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.  The UMC has held the position that same-sex couples should have the legal right to get married, even while barring such weddings to be performed by its pastors and within its buildings.

     Homosexuality was first openly debated at General Conference in 1972, resulting in its first statement regarding homosexuality in Methodist history.  That year, delegates were discussing the newly-proposed Social Principles, which offer the church’s positions on social issues.  Prior to 1972, there were no statements explicitly condemning or condoning homosexuality.  The proposed Social Principles stated “homosexuals as well as heterosexuals should have their human and civil rights protected.  All people are of sacred worth.”  Don Hand, a legal attorney and lay delegate from Southwestern Texas, stood up at the last minute to offer an additional phrase as an amendment: “though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”  In this last minute confusion, the General Conference adopted his amendment.  The Social Principles are protected by a supermajority vote and global ratification of any changes.  Since 1972, the denomination has maintained the position that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  This language was intended to draw a distinction between orientation and practice or behavior.  It implied that it is acceptable to have internal same-sex desires (orientation) while also condemning those who acted on those impulses (practice).  Sexual relations were to be affirmed only within the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage (between one man and one woman).
     Based on these positions, the Church has also maintained restrictions regarding clergy:  “Self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” cannot become pastors, licensed or ordained, nor may they conduct ceremonies that celebrate same-sex weddings or unions.  Such ceremonies cannot be held on church property.
     Many have pointed out the inconsistencies between the Book of Discipline’s beautiful statements of inclusion and affirmation alongside words of exclusion and condemnation.  A simple reason for these inconsistencies is that these statements appear in various places in the Book of Discipline and have been added at various times in our past 50 years and under various contexts.
     NOTE: The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church is our denomination’s “covenant book.”  It is the product of over 200 years of General Conferences and is the instrument for setting forth the laws, plan, polity, and process by which United Methodists govern themselves.  Every four years, the General Conference amends, clarifies, and adds its own contribution to the Discipline.  “We do not see the Discipline as sacrosanct or infallible.”

     With a body of over 12,000,000 members globally, United Methodists are not of one mind about how to be in ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (+) people.
     While the denomination has its official statements regarding homosexuality, all members can disagree with its positions and can openly advocate for change in policy.  That process happens through General Conference, the only body that speaks officially for the whole denomination.  General Conference is made up of 50% lay people and 50% clergy, representing every region of our global church.  At every General Conference since 1972, global delegates have grabbled with differing views as they make decisions about whether or how to include LGBTQIA+ people in the church.
     In a special-called General Conference in 2019, the General Conference met specifically to address ongoing, unresolved divisions regarding human sexuality.  Its decisions ended up strengthening restrictions on ordination and same-sex weddings, which has led to growing resistance, especially in the U.S. and Western Europe, where many United Methodists see such measures as punitive and discriminatory against LGBTQIA+ people, nor compatible with God’s agape love.
     The 2020 General Conference has been postponed until 2024 and will face difficult decisions on multiple proposals for major reorganization of the denomination or separation to form new expressions of Methodism.
     On May 1st, 2022, a new conservative-leaning expression of Methodism called the “Global Methodist Church” officially launching. They are explicit in their condemnation of LGBTQIA+ persons.
     PEUMC will not disaffiliate from the UMC nor support this new condemnatory expression of “Methodism.”  We are committed to the increase of inclusion for all God’s people–the LGBTQIA+ community no less–in church and society at all levels!

Affirming Books About Church and Human Sexuality

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality by Daniel Helminiak
Uncommon Calling: A Gay Man’s Struggle to Serve the Church by Chris Glaser
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines
Queering Christianity: Finding a Place at the Table for LGBTQI Christians
Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology by Patrick S. Cheng
Queer Theologies: the basics by Chris Greenough
Queer Theology: Beyond Apologetics by Linn Marie Tonstad
Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit by Pattrick S. Cheng
Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Harke
Homosexuality: A Scriptural Way Forward for the United Methodist Church by Joe Miller, Jr.
Going Gay: My Journey from Evangelical Christian Minister to Self-Acceptance, Love, Life, and Meaning by Tim Rymel
The Church and the Homosexual by McNeil
Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality by Bishop John Spong
Stanger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America by Mel White
Queering Wesley, Queering the Church by Keegan Osinski
UnClobber: Rethinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin

Other Reconciling United Methodist Churches in Wisc.

       (as of 6/2023 – 41 total)

   Port Edwards UMC – Port Edwards
First UMC – Kenosha
Wesley UMC – Kenosha
Franksville UMC – Franksville
North Pointe UMC – Racine
Bay View UMC – Milwaukee
Summerfield UMC – Milwaukee
Wauwatosa Avenue UMC – Wauwatosa
First UMC – Waukesha
Grand Avenue UMC – Washington
Kenwood UMC – Milwaukee
UMC of Whitefish Bay – Whitefish Bay
Emmanuel Community UMC – Menomonee Falls
Mequon UMC – Mequon
Agape Community UMC – Cedarburg
Wesley UMC – Sheboygan
Algoma UMC – Algoma
West Kewaunee UMC – Algoma
Family Church UMC – Neenah
Algoma Boulevard UMC – Oshkosh
First UMC of Whitewater – Whitewater
Delavan UMC – Delavan
Sun Prairie UMC – Sun Prairie
Mt. Horeb UMC – Mt. Horeb
Monona UMC – Monona
Bashford UMC – Madison (closing 6/30)
First UMC – Madison
Wesley Foundation – UW – Madison
Bethany UMC – Madison
Trinity UMC – Madison
Wellspring UMC – Madison
First UMC – Baraboo
First UMC – Waupaca
St. Paul’s/The Spring – Stevens Point/Plover
Onalaska UMC – Onalaska
River Falls UMC – River Falls
Cudahy UMC – Cudahy
Concordia UMC – Prairie du Sac
Bridges UMC – La Crosse
St. Paul’s UMC – Green Bay
Bethel UMC – Elkhorn