OMAHA, Neb. - A group of teenagers decided not to stand by and watch as the United Methodist Church voted in favor of anti-LGBT measures.
The confirmation class of 2019 was all set to finally become full members of their church -- the First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska -- after a year of learning about their faith and exploring their beliefs.
But when it came time to join, the eight teens decided against it.
"We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe that the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same sex marriage are immoral," the group wrote in a statement. "We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision."
The teens object to a February vote that reinforced the church's stance against ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex weddings. Delegates of the denomination's General Conference voted 438-384 in favor of the policies following several days of dramatic testimony and prayer.
"Depending on how this church responds to the general conference action, we will decide at a later time whether or not to become officially confirmed," the group's statement said. "But until then, we will continue to stand up against the unjust actions that the denomination is taking."
The February decision left United Methodists divided -- as many pastors and believers have pushed for inclusion for years.
The teenage group's church in Omaha describes itself as a "welcoming and inclusive community." In a social media post accompanying the teens' statement, the Omaha church called the decision "historic" and thanked the young group for "leading the way for inclusion of ALL God's beloved children."
After the February vote, a reverend with the church wrote: "To our LGBTQ+ friends, family, present at FUMC and beyond, you are beautiful, worthy, appreciated...we see you, we hear you, we love you and while I am sorry you had to hear this awful news once again from the UMC, it does not change your place in this community!"
Other leaders across the country spoke out at the time, reassuring their communities of their commitment to inclusion.
Following the conference, Tim Bruster, a senior pastor with the First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas called the experience "painful."
"It was painful for those of us who are for full inclusion of all our brothers and sisters, including LGBTQ people," he wrote. "It was painful for those who are more traditional, but who believe in the concept of a big tent that allows the church to reach as many people as possible in as many places as possible."
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Acting Senior Vice President Jay Brown wrote shortly after the vote: "Despite this decision, it's clear that LGBTQ Methodists and allies will continue to push for inclusion -- not in spite of their faith, but because of it."
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