The United Methodist Church has wrestled with issues like same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for decades. Now, it’s reached a breaking point. Last week, church leaders signed a proposed agreement that would separate the denomination between “traditionalist” and more liberal factions. Church delegates will take an official vote in May.
Rev. Hannah Kardon, teaching pastor at Urban Village Church in Wicker Park, stopped by Reset to talk about what the potential split could mean for her congregation.
On last year’s vote over LGBTQ issues and the United Methodist Church
Rev. Hannah Kardon: A vote took place that put into place much harsher penalties for the same homophobic policies that had been technically the policies of the church for a very long time. So the consequences for clergy who chose to do same-sex marriages, for queer people trying to get ordained were going to be much more significant … and it was also, I think, simply a testimony to where many in the church were that caused great mourning for those of us who are queer or who love queer people ... of how far away we were from many of our colleagues in the church.
On what the vote illustrated within the church
Kardon: It represented how big the division was between different parts of the church. The church that I serve, Urban Village Church, many of our sites are majority LGBTQ. … We do marriages, we nourish and hire and are led by LGBTQ people. That's our reality and that's our reality in this region, where that's the reality for many churches. In other parts of the country and other parts of the world, that's absolutely not the case. And so I think it really demonstrated that we're living incredibly different realities of what it means to be alive, to love Jesus and to be [a] church in this time.
On the proposed separation agreement
Kardon: No matter what happens, ... it's not going to feel satisfying. It's not going to feel good. It's not going to feel right. And we have to do something. We have to move forward somehow, and so many proposals have been made for this big meeting in May and one of them is this. It seems more likely than some of the others to pass because people from different constituency groups that have pretty radically different ideas about what should happen agree on it. My gut instinct is [that] we don't know anything until May. This seems like one possibility for moving forward with less harm, but we are a radically democratic denomination. Nothing is real until everybody votes on it.
On how the split would impact Urban Village Church in Chicago
Kardon: We know what we're about. We know who God's people are. We're going to keep doing marriages. We're going to keep hiring people. We're going to keep lifting up people in leadership no matter what. Nothing changes for us, no matter what happens in May. What can happen is that the language used throughout these conversations, the acts done, can cause harm to people, and so we will want to reduce that as much as possible. But we know who we are and we know what we're gonna do. And that's true of a lot of people. ... If we end up into two denominations, the one that bases its identity on no longer ordaining or marrying LGBTQ people, they're not going to stop having gay kids, … and so I'm gonna spend a lot of time praying for those people and for what I can do to be of service and solidarity to them.