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United Methodists Continue Bans On Same-Sex Weddings, LGBTQ Clergy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Leaders of the United Methodist Church voted on gay rights yesterday. They upheld church policy opposing same-sex marriages and also opposing LGBTQ clergy. The vote did not come without intense debate within the church. And we turn now to the president of the United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops, Ken Carter, who is on the line from Saint Louis, where the church meeting was held. Bishop Carter, welcome the program.

KEN CARTER: Thank you. Good morning.

INSKEEP: Do you support keeping the restrictions?

CARTER: Well, I've been a voice for trying to extend and include all persons within the grace of God. The bishops did recommend what was called a one church plan, which would have allowed for context and would have removed the language that had these prohibitions in them. We're a democratic process. And these delegates from all over the world met and, by 27, 28 votes, chose to retain those - to retain those church...

INSKEEP: Oh. So your group recommended change, and you were voted down narrowly.

CARTER: The Council of Bishops did endorse the one church plan, which would have removed that language. Yes.

INSKEEP: So what are the implications now for the United Methodist Church? - worldwide organization, very broadly practiced across the United States.

CARTER: Sure. Well, right. We're 12 million members on four continents. And in the U.S., there is strong support for, you know, full participation of the LGBT community in the church. And at the local level, this happens. But we are both a global and a democratic church. And that's what is both a strength of our church, but it's a part of our challenge. And we've really tried to talk about context and how important that it is. Especially in many of our urban areas, progressive areas, churches find it very difficult to do their mission with the gifts of LGBTQ persons.

INSKEEP: And so when you say context, you mean there will be church congregations where this is a serious, serious problem. What would you recommend that they do now as they absorb the disappointment of this vote?

CARTER: Well - and I would just say to persons the pain and the disappointment is very real. And I have always said that LGBTQ persons are a sacred worth. They are not the problem. Really, the problem is how the church can rediscover the grace of God through Jesus and hear his command to love one another. And I think it happens in the relationships in local communities and in families. But it is deeply disappointing. And it's our struggle. And we - in the U.S., we mirror the fragmentation of our culture and the polarization of our culture. There are Methodist churches in almost every county in the United States.

INSKEEP: Well, when you say - if you'll forgive me, we've got a few seconds here, Bishop Carter. What will you say to a local church whose members may decide, listen; we just have to leave the national church?

CARTER: Yeah. We simply - not to preserve the bureaucracy or institution, but we'll simply say we are better together. And we have much work to do in trying to be more loving and gracious toward each other.

INSKEEP: Bishop Carter, thanks for your time. I really appreciate it.

CARTER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Bishop Ken Carter is president of the United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops. And he speaks on this day after a meeting of Methodist church members voted to keep rules against same-sex marriage and opposing LGBTQ clergy.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK'S "23.01.2018") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.