ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - The United Methodist Church seems anything but united after a divisive vote at a conference Tuesday. A majority of UMC delegates voted to strengthen a ban on issues relating to its LGBT members.
“For the harm done by the church, we are sorry," can be read on the sign outside of Allendale United Methodist Church in Saint Petersburg.
Rev. Andy Oliver wants everyone to feel comfortable worshiping, especially his gay members.
“When they hear the message that there’s a part of my church that says that God does not love them... that is life destroying,” Oliver said.
And Oliver says that’s exactly the message his gay members are hearing.
After an intense and emotional 3-day-long debate at a conference made up of hundreds of delegates in Saint Louis, 56 percent voted in favor of the so called “traditional plan,” which upholds and strengthens the church's belief that the "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings and practicing homosexuals may not be ordained as ministers.”
“There was shouting, there was crying,” Oliver, who attended the conference, said.
Kenneth Carter, the bishop for Florida’s conference released a statement, not taking a side but offering comfort to both the LGBT community and evangelicals.
Of the delegates who voted, 43 percent were from abroad, most from African nations known to be anti-gay.
The vote still has to clear a judicial committee, though no matter the outcome, Rev. Oliver says nothing changes for his church.
“We will always stand with people who find themselves in the margins,” Oliver said.
Allendale UMC will hold a special service on Sunday with other churches who are against the vote.