UMC agency gives grant to LGBT advocacy group despite ban on funding ‘gay caucuses’

The sign in front of the United Methodist Building, the only non-government building on Capitol Hill. It is positioned next to the Supreme Court building.
The sign in front of the United Methodist Building, the only non-government building on Capitol Hill. It is positioned next to the Supreme Court building. | The Christian Post

An official body of The United Methodist Church recently announced plans to give a grant to an LGBT advocacy group, even though the denomination’s rules prohibit the funding of groups that promote homosexuality.

In December, The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church announced that it was bestowing more than $98,000 in grant funding to various organizations to promote justice initiatives this year.  

One of the organizations given a grant was Reconciling Ministries Network, a group that is not officially part of the UMC, but has lobbied for the denomination to be more accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

According to the announcement, RMN was given a grant as part of a project on intersectionality, specifically to create materials for a “‘Curriculum,’ or multimedia resource in a Vacation Bible School format serving whole congregations, small groups, and Children’s Sunday School classes from a variety of theological perspectives.”

“The purpose is to invite faith communities into a deeper understanding of intersectional justice as a means for creating more peace-filled, holistic communities,” explained GBCS in its announcement.

The decision to give a grant to RMN might run afoul of the UMC Book of Discipline, however, namely the section on the UMC General Council on Finance and Administration.

According to paragraph 613, responsibilities of the UMC GCFA include ensuring that “no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The UMC ‘not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.’”

“This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented,” the section continued.

The Christian Post reached out to The General Board of Church and Society for clarification on this situation, with a spokesperson confirming that $2,000 had been set aside for the RMN grant.

Regarding the Book of Discipline’s prohibition on UMC bodies funding groups that “promote the acceptance of homosexuality,” the spokesperson emailed a comment on Tuesday explaining that the board did not believe the grant violated denominational rules.

“The Church and Society Board of Directors evaluated the Intersectional Justice initiative from Reconciling Ministries Network for the Peace with Justice Grant and believe the program is in line with the GBCS grant policy and not in conflict with the United Methodist Book of Discipline,” stated the comment.

The GBCS has been known for taking progressive stances on political issues, having previously been a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice before the UMC General Conference voted in 2016 to cut ties to the abortion advocacy group.

In 2013, as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether California could ban gay marriage, the GBCS-owned United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C., allowed same-sex marriage protestors to use their facilities for organizing their rally.

Mark Tooley, president of the theologically conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, told CP in an interview back in 2013 that GBCS had a history of being “very liberal politically and theologically.”

“[GBCS] largely ignores the church's stance on homosexuality, routinely lobbying for its overthrow at the denomination's governing General Conference every four years,” said Tooley at the time.

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