Wyoming Methodists who attended a two-week national meeting in Pittsburgh said Friday the church will not split over the issue of homosexuality. At the General Council meeting, the Reverend Jon Laughlin of Grace United Methodist Church in Cheyenne said the religion is one of the world's most democratic institutions and will not be divided by differences of opinion. He predicted the church will not encounter the same rift as the Episcopal Church after last year's confirmation of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire.
Many of the 1,000 delegates to the Methodist meeting feared the church would embark on a liberal path on issues such as sexuality. Instead the delegates set the church's 8.3 million-member denomination on a conservative course. "It's been the conservative voice straight down the line," said the Reverend Janet Forbes of Cheyenne's First United Methodist Church, who attended as a regional representative. Forbes said the discussion of homosexuality was not nearly as inflammatory as expected, and the view that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings essentially remained the same. "The hurtful part for the conference was that with a vote of 55%-45%, there was refusal to recognize that people of good faith disagree on the issue," she said. Forbes said she is disappointed the church did not acknowledge the variety of opinions about homosexuality. "In my congregation, they thought that it was appropriate to admit that we differ in opinion," she said.
The Reverend Delbert Hansen of Faith United Methodist Church in Cheyenne said this year's conference reassured him of the church's legislative system. "It's been a productive session, but are there hurt feelings? Yes. Are there people who are upset? Yes. But no one is celebrating the destruction of another point of view," he said. Hansen said the division of voting power between lay members and clergy will ensure that the church will stay intact despite controversies. "I've been in love with the Methodist Church for 57 years, and it's frustrating at times. But it's so well-designed, it can't get screwed up," he said. "The church isn't going to divide and die, because it's more than the brick and mortar. It's about the connection of people and God."