Possible UMC split is tough issue for LGBTQ pastor

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Some United Methodist Church leaders have proposed that the denomination split as result of the debate over gay marriage and gay clergy. It’s a challenging issue for many pastors, especially Rev. Henry Gibson.

Gibson is the pastor of youth, evangelism and inclusive ministries at Highlands United Methodist Church. He’s also pansexual and genderqueer, and he’s been coming out to more people about that over the last year. He’s concerned about what the split, if it happens, could mean for his future.

“If I fell in love with someone who was also identified as male at birth, then I could potentially not be able to continue to live out my call to ministry, which as been on my heart since I was 14 years old,” he said.

He’s also concerned about what the split could mean for the future of the denomination. He’s a lifelong United Methodist, and his father also was a United Methodist pastor. So he cares deeply about the well-being of the church.

“(A split) could lead to people losing their connection to their home congregation their family has been at for years,” he said. “It could lead to pastors losing their appointments because they and their congregation decide to go different directions. It could lead to, just in the bare bones, a financial burden that we’re unable to meet.”

Church leaders could face a vote on the splitting proposal at their general conference in May. If they decide to move forward with it, the church will split into two branches – one that supports gay marriage and gay clergy, and another that does not. Individual churches will then have four years to decide which branch they’ll choose.

Regardless of what happens, Gibson says he hopes he’ll be able to continue doing ministry going forward. He hopes the church will find a way to spread the message of Jesus freely. He cares about his future and the church’s future, and that’s part of the reason it’s such a challenging issue for him.

“The same church that in many ways rejects who I am as a queer clergy person is the one that raised me, is the one that really made me the loving, accepting, inviting person that I feel that I am,” he said.


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