A delegate addresses the United Methodist 2016 General Election in Portland, OR.
A delegate addresses the United Methodist 2016 General Election in Portland, OR.

United Methodists who are the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States have taken firm steps towards steering the 12.1 million-member global denomination away from the path that its mainline Protestant peers have taken in recent years.

Delegates to the United Methodist Church’s May 10-20 General Conference repealed 40-year-old language affirming the Roe v. Wade court decision that struck down state laws restricting abortion, mandated that church agencies disaffiliate from an interfaith coalition that opposes all abortion restrictions, and (for the second conference in a row) did not consider changes to the church’s prohibitions on same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy.

Efforts by liberal activists to divest church finances from companies that do business with Israel were defeated, as delegates instead encouraged the church’s missions agency to withdraw from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a group that criticizes the Jewish state as the only barrier to peace in the Middle East. Delegates also defeated proposals to divest from fossil fuels.

Evangelical and orthodox United Methodists are not merely holding the line, but steering their global denomination in a more conservative direction. At the denomination’s General Conference, liberal forces gave up even trying to remove the church’s prohibitions on same-sex unions or ordination standards.

A growing Methodist majority made up of U.S. evangelicals and Africans is placing the denomination on a strikingly different trajectory than its mainline Protestant peers.

Previous liberal-led ‘heavy-hitters’ such as the United Methodist Women’s Division have seen their influence reduced as the church’s membership shifts overseas.

Legislative proposals that would have advanced sexual liberalism were effectively tabled and orthodox United Methodists facilitated a major turnaround on life issues, among other achievements.

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