Jim Wallis, the President of Sojourners, is mourning the decision by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis to adopt the Traditional Plan, which reinforced the United Methodist Church’s prohibitions on LGBTQ clergy and marriages. Wallis says, “there was much harm done by the vote at the Methodist conference in St. Louis. Tears, hurt, and pain permeated the gathering — not just from LGBTQ clergy, seminarians, and lay leaders who were in attendance, but from many other Methodist delegates who know and love them.”
“What failed in St. Louis,” Wallis claimed, “was an attempt to find common ground, to be welcoming of deeper biblical conversations in faith communities, and to find compassionate ways to talk about and even to honestly disagree over the meanings of biblical sexuality. Rather, the deliberate purpose of some in these pitched ecclesial battles seems to be to further divide the church on very difficult theological and pastoral issues.”
In his piece entitled, “Are Methodists Mirroring a Culture of Division? And Can We Do Better?” Wallis says, “the vote showed again how divided the church is, as the vote was nearly split down the middle. That split shows, painfully, that the church is no better place to heal division than anywhere else in our culture.” An alternative plan which was narrowly defeated, called the One Church Plan, would have respected differences while keeping the church together.
As a better example of Christian unity, he cited a letter presented by over 15,000 young Methodists to the convention leadership, which said:
We the young people of the United Methodist Church are not of one mind when it comes to inclusion of our LGBTQ siblings in Christ. And yet through working together, sharing stories, and worshipping side by side we have seen each other’s gifts and fruits for ministry!... We believe that if we are truly a body we need each other… We as the church need to stop the harm that is done when we debate one another’s humanity and worth, and focus on our shared mission to live into our primary identity as God’s children.
Wallis says that “LGBTQ Christians are asking to be welcomed and accepted in the body of Christ, and people at various places on theological questions are trying to figure out what that means. As Christians, we are called to listening and humility than certain judgement.
“Biblically committed Christians, including evangelical Christians, can and do have different interpretations of scripture on issues of sexual orientation and identity. Christians should always show civility, respect, and dialogue over schism, and can agree to disagree on some matters — which some on both sides command we cannot do. I believe that a new generation of believers with practical relational experience and fresh thinking, led by their commitment to Christ, will ultimately resolve these issues in most churches.”
There is a way forward, Wallis claims, and that “first, we should affirm the image of God, dignity and worth, civil rights, and integrity of faith for all LGBTQ people, without exception.”
For all Christians, in this time, “listening — not just pronouncing — is essential.” Wallis asserts that “listening to those who have been marginalized by their society is especially important if we are listening to Jesus.”
Wallis prayed for “discernment in the Christian community, mutual respect, and a spirit that invites people rather than marginalizes them.” He hopes for “a common Christian conviction that the people represented by every initial of LGBTQ are all beloved of God.”
Jim Wallis is available for interview.
Jim Wallis’ complete comments can be found at