First, there is the picture. It has a man on the left, then three women. All look downcast. All sport gay pride scarves. The cutline tells us they are reacting to the defeat of a proposal at the United Methodist Church’s gathering in St. Louis that would have allowed LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage within the church.
The picture ran on the New York Times, the the Atlantic and with both the staff-produced and Associated Press stories in the Washington Post. National Public Radio ran another photo that pictured people with the distinctive rainbow-colored scarves, and HuffPost chose a picture taken the day before of pro-gay attendees.
The photos were the media’s way of telling us it did not approve of the vote by the United Methodist Church to continue to forbid gay ministers or gay weddings to be performed in its churches.
A special gathering convened to consider recommendations from a panel to relax the rules against gays serving as ministers or being married in the church or at least let individual Methodist churches choose their own approach turned into a battle over doctrinal adherence. The One Church Plan – which allowed individual churches to choose – was defeated. The Traditional Plan, which restated the church’s commitment to traditional views on gays serving in leadership roles in the church, passed 438-384.
If the photos weren’t clear enough, the leads of the stories left no doubt – predicting the decision would lead to the collapse of the Methodist church.
“Leaders of the United Methodist Church have rejected the One Church Plan, a measure that would have eased restrictions on gay clergy and same-sex marriages, with delegates voting against it at a special session of the church’s General Conference,” read the lead on Bill Chappell’s story for NPR.
“The United Methodist Church on Tuesday voted to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages, a decision that could split the nation’s second-largest Protestant church,” wrote Timothy Williams and Elizabeth Dias of the New York Times.
“The United Methodist Church, America’s third-largest religious denomination, will likely break apart over members’ inability to reconcile differing opinions on whether to affirm queer Christians,” read Carol Kuruvilla for Huffington Post.
The Post’s lead, by Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, read: “In a contentious meeting years in the making, the United States’ third-largest faith community voted to emphasize its opposition to same-sex marriage and gay clergy – a decision which was cheered by conservatives in the global church, especially in Africa, but was deeply disappointing to many Americans who were eager to change.”
It also ran AP’s piece by David Crary and Jim Salter, which began: “The United Methodist Church, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, faces a likely surge in defections and acts of defiance after delegates at a crucial conference voted Tuesday to strengthen the faith’s bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy.”
The AP piece devoted one paragraph to explain why the ban was supported, quoting a pastor from Liberia saying if the bans were eased, “the church in Africa would cease to exist. We can’t do anything but to support the Traditional Plan,” – the name for the plan that passed, which upholds church teachings on homosexuality that have long been in place but ignored by many ministers within it.
It quoted three different pastors expressing “devastation,” “this virus,” and a vow not to “participate in your bigotry, sin & violence.”
The New York Times story also began with a viewpoint opposing the plan that ultimately was adopted, saying the vote “served as a rejection of a push by progressive members and leaders to open the church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” and already has led to talk “about leaving the denomination and possibly creating a new alliance of gay-friendly churches.”
Photo by KOMUnews