The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Starkville church remains within UMC amid schism over LGBTQ+ bans

Theological+conflict+is+unfolding+over+the+role+of+LGBTQ%2B+people+within+the+UMC.
Ivy Rose Ball | The Reflector

Theological conflict is unfolding over the role of LGBTQ+ people within the UMC.

The Starkville First United Methodist Church voted to remain a member of the United Methodist Church in September amid a schism over the role of LGBTQ+ people in the church.
United Methodist Church law forbids the marriage or ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” but many progressive church leaders and congregation members have said they will no longer follow these traditional views toward LGBTQ+ clergy members.
This has prompted many conservative congregations to leave the United Methodist Church over concern that the church will change its official stance on the role of LGBTQ+ people within the church.
According to the Associated Press, more than 6,000 United Methodist congregations have now received permission to leave the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination since 2019, about a fifth of all U.S. United Methodist congregations.
Here in Starkville, a vote was held in September to decide whether to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.
According to an email statement made by the Starkville First United Methodist Church, a two-thirds majority vote by those present was required to disaffiliate. This requirement was not achieved, and FUMC Starkville will remain a part of the United Methodist Church.
Reverend Paulette Buford-James, Starkville district superintendent for the United Methodist Church, said she was glad the church’s congregation made the decision to stay.
“As a District Superintendent of the MS Conference, when it comes to speaking in regard of a congregation, I am always representing the Mississippi Annual Conference and not my own opinions,” Buford-James said. “It is not our practice to share the details of any local congregation’s disaffiliation status, however, it is with joy and jubilance that Starkville First UMC remains United Methodist.”
Senior Pastor of Starkville FUMC, Reverend Jim Genesse, said the church’s mission has not changed and that it will continue to spread its message to those who walk through its doors, whether they be lifelong Methodists or newcomers.
“The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” Genesse said.
Buford-James said she believed that instead of worrying about whether to split off from the United Methodist Church, they should focus on spreading love and acceptance to those who seek it.
“I would say to keep the main thing, and that is to continue the focus on the mission and ministry of Christ,” Buford-James said. “Bearing witness to the love of Christ in this world, so that those to whom love a stranger will find it generous in us.”
Many members of the church expressed joy that Starkville FUMC was staying a part of the United Methodist Church. William Giles Lindley, a lecturer at Mississippi State University and longtime member of Starkville FUMC, expressed his own personal joy at the church’s decision.
“I’m happy about that,” Lindley said. “I’m going to stay at the United Methodist, so I’m glad that that church is staying.”
Lindley said there is discussion within the United Methodist Church to consider a change in church law.
“The exact language is self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not supposed to be ordained in the United Methodist Church. And there are people who want to change that, there are people who are working to change that, but it has not changed at all this time,” Lindley said.
Lindley believes many congregations are leaving the United Methodist Church over the possibility that the church might change its stance on LGBTQ+ rights.
Buford-James said that despite the differences in beliefs held by the different branches of the United Methodist, they work better when they put aside their differences and work together to spread the word of God.
“The United Methodist Church is a diverse, global denomination with geographical generational and cultural differences,” Buford-James said. “However, we value unity and accomplish more as a connectional church.”
Buford-James also said, regardless of their inclusion in the United Methodist Church, congregations would still be children of God.
“If you are Christian, then you are Christian,” Buford-James said. “No two Christians travel the exact same journey in their walk with Christ.”
According to the United Methodist Church website, the next General Conference will convene between April 23 and May 3, 2024 to address multiple legislative proposals to alter existing church policies on human sexuality and to divide or restructure the denomination as a result of differences on these and other issues. The website added that it seems unlikely that the current policies regarding human sexuality will be substantially altered.   

About the Contributor
Michael Cassidy, Staff Writer
Michael Cassidy is a senior communication major. Michael is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Reflector

Your donation will support the student journalists of Mississippi State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Reflector

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Starkville church remains within UMC amid schism over LGBTQ+ bans