By Frances Stebbins
The issue of whether openly gay persons should be recognized as fit for ordination to the United Methodist ministry has been an issue for the denomination and several others for years. Thirteen months ago in my ”Give Light…” memoir column I wrote of it because a decision was scheduled to come before the national meeting of the denomination in the spring of 2020.
Rules of the church have long forbidden men, and now women also, to seek ordination since the state and practice of homosexuality are considered contrary to Scriptural approval.
At the time I spoke with a Roanoke Valley UMC clergyman who said the denomination would not necessarily split over the issue; he like a number of others –indicated by remarks in their church’s newsletters—said a gay or transgendered pastor would not matter to him. A welcome was extended to all, as indicated in other pastoral messages.
What was anticipated in February 2020 of a decision expected to be made nationally last year has not come about because a few weeks after advance information about the convention was issued, the COVID-19 pandemic caused cancellation. With the issue still undecided, a leader in a conservative group that wants to keep the prohibition, the Rev. Keith Boyette of Virginia, said recently that the conservatives do not want to wait another year to negotiate further.
The Global Methodist Church, made up of the anti-gay faction, is expected to come into being later this year. So far, I have not heard of any nearby parishes planning to join it.
On February 26, the Roanoke Valley lost to death at 91 another minister, the Rev. Dr. William Rupert Klein. For 28 years he served one of the more prestigious congregations in downtown Roanoke, Second Presbyterian Church in Old Southwest. I knew Klein less well than I did Branan Thompson, of whom I wrote last, but he was a long-time leader among the many Presbyterians in our area. He also enjoyed in his retirement in Roanoke a harmonious relationship with his successor, the Rev. George Anderson, who also is nearing the end of a long pastorate.