KINGSTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Leaders of the worldwide United Methodist Church decided Tuesday whether to allow same-sex marriages and gay clergy. The outcome could have lasting impacts on the church as well as followers here in our area.
The United Methodist Church has not allowed same-sex marriage and gay clergy for decades. This week, the worldwide church is meeting in St. Louis to choose which path to take.
United Methodist Churches are found all around northeastern and central Pennsylvania. They and their congregations have stood for generations, and now, there is a potential fork in the road.
Church leaders have been making passionate pleas in St. Louis this week during what's called general conference as the church grapples with deciding whether to allow same-sex marriages and gay pastors.
"If the 'Traditional' plan does pass, there's already pain. It will increase the pain," said Rev. Craig Gommer, Dallas United Methodist Church.
Rev. Gommer joined a group of United Methodist pastors in Trucksville for bible study. He's watched as the general conference chose against a plan that would allow churches and the conferences they're in to decide if gay marriage and gay clergy are permitted.
"There's still hope, but at the same time, people are readying themselves for the possibility this may not be their church anymore," Rev. Gommer said.
In one of the more critical votes at the UMC General Conference this week in St. Louis, two-thirds of conferences in the U.S. voted for the "One Church" plan, but votes from around the rest of the world outweighed those votes and led to a decision for the "Traditional" plan.
"All we can do is wait and see what God's spirit does. I hope God has something up God's sleeve," said Rev. Marian Hartman.
Rev. Hartman is the superintendent for churches in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre district and believes there will be some of the United Methodist faith who won't be able to live with whatever choice is made.
"I suspect we will lose some people either direction. We may lose entire congregations," said Rev. Hartman.
The United Methodist Church is right now wrapping up the conference in St. Louis.
Ultimately, the church voted for the "Traditional" plan with a vote of 438 to 384.
The "Traditional" plan would punish churches and clergy if they violate the ban on same-sex marriages.
Another general conference is set for next year.