Division in the United Methodist Church Sparks Unity amongst McMurry Students


Through February 23-26th, the United Methodist Church had a quaint and irregular conference. The Special Session of the General Conference held in St. Louis was an impromptu conference that addressed sensitive issues, including the church’s position concerning homosexuality.

Normally, conferences held by the United Methodist Church are quadrennial. That is, the next conference is scheduled for the year 2020. Over 1,000 delegates were in attendance for the special session, and this wouldn’t be the first time such debates on sensitive issues take place.

For more than two decades now, the United Methodist Church has called into question the prohibitive language in the UMC’s book of laws and doctrine, The Book of Discipline, specifically the language toward same-sex marriage and permitting homosexuals in the clergy.

The issue at stake at The Special Session of the General Conference was to address the “One Church Plan.” According to the Christian Science Monitor, the “One Church Plan” adds language that permits UMC clergy to choose whether or not to conduct same-sex marriages, churches to choose to allow those weddings to take place in their sanctuaries, and regional bodies to choose to ordain LGBT clergy. It also adds language that ensures clergy and churches who make those choices will not be punished for such actions.

After the special session, however, the plan was denied and the same laws and doctrines that discriminate against same-sex marriage are still in place.

“I am infuriated with the UMC’s oppressive and prejudiced treatment of the LGBTQ community,” said alumni Chris Kiser. “The very language of ‘incompatibility’ and ‘homosexual practice’ shows that the UMC is ignorant of sexuality and refuse to listen.” Kiser, who graduated from McMurry as a religion major in 2018, formerly attended Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. Kiser’s frustration with the United Methodist Church has prompted him to cease active presence within his congregation. “I have been too frustrated to attend a United Methodist church since the decision was made,” said Kiser. “It’s blatant discrimination and encourages persecution of LGBTQ persons.”

In the McMurry Community, the response was met with unity and messages of comfort. Shortly after the conference, a message via email from Dr. Sandra Harper was sent out student-wide. “While we understand and can appreciate these philosophical divides, the McMurry campus culture is distinctive in that we express our Christian principles through hospitality and gracious interactions with all who choose to study, work, and compete at the University,” said Dr. Sandra Harper in her email. “The Institution encourages connections between people of varying circumstances, cultures, languages, and beliefs.  We believe that this culture of hospitality better prepares women and men of all backgrounds to engage others in working toward the common good.”

The result of the special general conference will not directly affect McMurry. However, within Dr. Harper’s email, McMurry will evaluate the ramifications of the vote and determine whether or not it affects McMurry University as whole.

Although many students around McMurry were disappointed with the result of the special general conference, McMurry’s large Methodist student population responded with words of kindness and support for the LGBTQ community.

“We will not know the effect of the conference until the Judicial Council—which determines church law for the denomination—has considered whether the legislation enacted in February meets its standards,” said McMurry University Chaplain Marty CashBurless. Serving McMurry for two years, Reverend CashBurless focuses her service on the common good of everyone. “Our campus reflects the denomination’s membership with people along the spectrum of care and concern. I try to love all people as Christ has loved us. That’s enough of a challenge for me – to love everyone,” concluded Reverend CashBurless

Even though division in the United Methodist Church has sparked heated debates and division among members of the United Methodist Church, McMurry University maintains its open acceptance of anyone and everyone who is willing to learn.

Although McMurry University is a Methodist affiliated university, its mission stays open to everyone, stating, “Shaped by Christian principles, McMurry University challenges students to examine our complex world from multiple perspectives in preparation for lives of leadership, service, and professional success.”

There is no doubt that, although division dominates our country’s narrative, McMurry University will always maintain an open heart to everyone, no matter sexual orientation, race, or gender. It is clear that McMurry University caters to everyone and anyone who has the heart to learn.

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