Why The United Methodist Church's Affirmation Of Homosexuality Was Not A Theological Shift

In 2019, the United Methodist Church voted to strengthen its ban on gay clergy and marriage. Five years later, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church officially affirmed gay clergy and marriage. Now, it would be very easy to assume that the denomination had a theological epiphany over the last 5 years – theological minds, perhaps, got with the times. However, this is not the case. So, what happened? Why the drastic theological/social shift?

Imagine a rubber band anchored to two fingers pulling in opposite directions. After the rubber band is stretched, both sides are at a standstill unless one side lets go of it. Regarding the United Methodist Church, this is exactly what happened. Someone let go.

Since 2019, almost 8,000 congregations of the United Methodist Church have left—they have disaffiliated from the larger denomination to form a new denomination. In other words, approximately 1.1 million conservatively minded parishioners and ministers have mobilized to exit the United Methodist Church since 2019.

And so, the recent changes in the United Methodist Church were not a theological shift or worldview change for the denomination but a snap of the rubber band. Indeed, when the conservatives let go of the rubber band, it released the tension. It allowed the theological liberals to advance toward their LGBTQ goal with virtually no resistance. Therefore, instead of having two theologies pulling on a rubber band or even a theological shift, there are now two separate denominations with two distinctive and separate theologies - and no stretched rubber band.