Isla Vista Beat Reporter
Isla Vista’s University United Methodist Church community spoke out against the Methodist ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy after the denomination voted to maintain its traditional stance.
In late February, 53 percent of United Methodist Church (UMC) officials voted to affirm the church’s original opposition to same-sex marriage and allow LGBTQ+ clergy during their General Conference Meeting in St. Louis. Currently, many UMC ministers officiate same-sex marriages and approve of LGBTQ+ clergy despite the ban; this new ruling would enforce a stricter punishment for churches in violation.
“I think it is a travesty,” said Andrew Rowberg, a third year Materials Science Ph.D student at UC Santa Barbara whose been actively involved with the United Methodist Church (UMC) since his undergraduate years.
After hearing the results of the conference, local University UMC Pastor Frank Schaefer was also frustrated, but not the least bit surprised.
He took to Facebook the following day, affirming his churches support for LGBTQ+ rights: “We will continue to welcome and support our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, we will affirm and encourage their calling into the ordained ministry, and we will continue to offer same-sex marriage!”
As a long-time outspoken activist for LGBTQ+ rights within the church and proud father of three gay sons, Pastor Frank supported the “One Church Plan” that would have allowed each individual church to make their own decision on LGBTQ+ inclusion. Instead, the denomination opted for “The Traditional Plan,” a route widely believed by liberal ministers and LGBTQ+ supporters to cause a divide within the church.
Pastor Frank calls this a “splinter” which would lead to not one division, but three, four, or five splits within the “united” church.
Although his church will continue to support its LGBTQ+ community, Pastor Frank worries about the message this non-inclusive decree will send to its current LGBTQ+ members — one-third of his church.
He believes the ban will only further the risk that the LGBTQ+ community faces on a daily basis, a harm he has witnessed on a personal level: his eldest gay son almost committed suicide for religious tenets surrounding homosexuality.
Rowenberg, too, described his frustration with the ban that defies his own religious beliefs. “If we as Christians accept that God makes all people in his image,” said Rowenberg, “discrimination against individuals who were, like those in the LGBTQ+ community, born a certain way makes absolutely no sense, and yet, here we are.”
Rowenberg, along with Pastor Frank, also believe the denomination’s decision to remain traditional on sexuality will only affirm suspicions that younger groups have towards religion as a whole.
Vivian Peck, a third year environmental studies major, has been a member of the University United Methodist Church for over two years. As a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, Peck was shocked by the ban, but remains faithful to her church’s inclusion.
“I am very disappointed in this decision, but I do not think it will change my experience as a member of the UMC,” Peck said. “Because the church members that I know … are brave, resilient and have the utmost integrity to continue to include people regardless of their background.”
Similarly, Pastor Frank reiterated his church’s support for the LGBTQ+ community in a blog post.
“It’s still heartbreaking to think that some of our LGBTQ+ children will grow up in non-inclusive Methodist churches,” he wrote, “but at least they can find out that there is a large part of Methodism where they are fully accepted, welcomed, and supported in their sexual orientation or identity.”