Methodist Church gathering brings 3,000 leaders to Portland

A church gathering 4 years in the making

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The global gathering of The United Methodist Church brought 3,000 leaders together in Portland, for the church's General Conference, which is held every four years.

They have filled 13 Portland hotels, and many met up again with longtime friends from other far away places.

But barely below the surface there is tension at the gathering.

The rainbow shawls worn by some show the protest of those who want church law changed when it comes to people who are LGBTQ.

Dorothy Benz, a church leader from New York, is one of their leaders. 

“The church currently discriminates against LGBTI people by barring us from ordination, by barring us from weddings, by, at the discretion of a pastor barring us even from membership,” she said.

“There is a systemic discrimination across the board against queer people by The United Methodist church,” said Benz.

She will push for reform at the conference, but thinks too many others are against the change.

One of them is Rob Renfroe, the president of a conservative group within the church called
“Good News."

“We do believe what the bible teaches is same-sex practice and same-sex marriage is contrary to God's will. So we're very welcoming of all people but we can't accept all practices,” Renfroe said.

The tug of war between the two sides puts many leaders in an uncomfortable spot.

Bishop Robert Hayes Jr., from Oklahoma, grew up in the civil rights era and believes in social justice. But many in his congregations are against inclusion.

“But I will admit that at times its very, very difficult to try to just open up the doors and just be on the same page with everybody. And so I’m in that struggle, but I think a lot of people are. I think the church is,” he said.


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