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United Methodists eye judicial council proceedings on LGBT vote

Attendees arrive for a district gathering of the United Methodist Church, held Sunday at Kennesaw United Methodist Church. CONTRIBUTED BY JOHN AMIS
Attendees arrive for a district gathering of the United Methodist Church, held Sunday at Kennesaw United Methodist Church. CONTRIBUTED BY JOHN AMIS

Over the years, the Rev. Ed Tomlinson has faced the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council.

His advice to those United Methodists eagerly awaiting a ruling is to let the process play out.

At issue is the denomination’s handling of homosexuality. Delegates at a special General Conference earlier this year voted by a slim margin to uphold and tighten the church’s position on the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage.

Related: Emotion-filled sermons at United Methodist churches follow divisive LGBT vote

The judicial council is meeting in Illinois this week to determine the constitutionality of petition passed during the General Conference. Whatever the outcome, members and experts say it could split the church.

And, the issue is not likely to go away and could come up again at the next General Conference in 2020.

“Just be aware that they will be weighing all sides and will be taking into account previous results,” said Tomlinson, a retired pastor who is currently serving at Lanier United Methodist Church in Cumming.“They will discuss it thoroughly and there may be minority opinions come out. I don’t think any court of law could be any more thorough.”

The message that  Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson has been sharing is been to keep doing mission work, such as working with those most in need, said Sybil Davidson, a spokeswoman for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“That’s our strength no matter what and that’s not up for vote,” she said.

Related: United Methodists fear split over General Conference vote

What’s certain is that whatever the council decides, it will alienate some members. The judicial council’s findings could  be made public early next week.

“The seeds of division are already there,” he said. “We heard from groups on the left and groups on the right. What we’re not hearing is a whole lot from the middle and most people in the UMC are in the middle. I’m the person who believes we have an opportunity to work through it and hold it together.”