Meanwhile, the influence of LGBTQ+ supportive groups has been increasing within the UMC.
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a group that, according to its website, is “committed to intersectional justice across and beyond the United Methodist connection” and is “working for the full participation of all LGBTQ+ people throughout the life and leadership of the Church.”
According to a November 2022 RMN statement, conferences of the UMC’s five jurisdictions resulted in “a historic slate of episcopal elections for the Reconciling movement” in which 13 new LGBTQ+ supportive bishops were elected.
“Episcopal elections are important for LGBTQ+ justice because our Church’s moral direction is deeply influenced by the values of the elected bishops and because bishops hold immense power to affect the livelihoods of LGBTQ+ clergy and congregations seeking justice and inclusion,” RMN said. “We celebrate these newly elected justice-seeking bishops who represent more of the whole of humanity and whose wisdom is invaluable in the ongoing co-creation of our Church.”
Besides electing openly homosexual bishops, some members of the UMC clergy have called for official apologies to be made for even challenging their election.
At the 2022 South Central Jurisdiction Conference, RMN reported that Rev. Katie McKay Simpson, a pastor from Louisiana, “called the jurisdiction to collective confession and apology for challenging the historic election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, the Church’s first out gay bishop.”
To Therrell, the jurisdictions’ adoption of pro-LGBTQ+ resolutions “telegraph where the future of the UMC is.”
“We think it is highly likely at the General Conference in 2024 that the definition of marriage will change, that the ordination standards will change, and that most of the traditional provisions we’ve passed in recent years will be repealed,” Therrell said.
As of now, nearly one-quarter of UMC congregations have officially broken away within the last five years.
The departures have only been increasing exponentially. According to UM News, the official news-gathering agency of the UMC, 4,645 churches officially split from the UMC so far this year. That is more than double the number of churches that left in the previous year (2,003) and almost 10 times the number in 2021 (486).