Teenagers in Nebraska are protesting the United Methodist Church for affirming its long-held opposition to same-sex marriage and homosexual acts earlier this year.
According to HuffPost, the teens are declining to partake in the Omaha's First United Methodist Church confirmation ritual, which will affirm their Christian faith and membership in the UMC.
"When Confirmation Sunday arrived this week, the junior high school students stood up and announced that they were not going to join the UMC at this time ― protesting that its policies towards LGBTQ members are 'immoral,'" reports HuffPost.
In a letter published on First United Methodist’s Facebook page, the teens said that while they appreciate growing up in the church, they cannot condone its policies toward LGBT people.
"We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision," the teens wrote in the letter. "We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage are immoral."
"We are not standing just for ourselves, we are standing for every single member of the LGBTQ+ community who is hurting right now," the teens added. "Because we were raised in this church, we believe that if we all stand together as a whole, we can make a difference."
Earlier this year, the UMC gathered over 800 ministers and lay leader delegates in St. Louis at the Special Session of the General Conference of the UMC. After debating how the church will address pressing issues like homosexuality, same-sex unions, and active homosexuals serving in the clergy, the UMC ultimately voted in favor of traditional church stances. The UMC also strengthened some of its disciplinary practices regarding disobedient clergy and will suspend a pastor for up to one year without pay if they were to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Jerry Kulah, head of the UMC's Africa Initiative, said progressive groups put up a tough fight and lamented the dollars that were spent debating the issue. "The progressive groups are loud, but they don’t have the numbers," he said. "I’m happy to go back to old ladies and old men in villages who received the Bible from missionaries and let them know that the Bible hasn’t changed."
Members predicted at the time that the church's decision to keep its tradition intact may cause a splinter, with more progressive groups splitting off to form their own denomination, similar to what happened with the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches. The UMC is the largest mainline Protestant ecclesial community in the United States, comprising six million members. Despite progressive pushback, the UMC top court ruled in favor of the conference's decision last week.
The Traditional Plan will go into effect in January 2020.
Laura Young, south central regional organizer for Reconciling Ministry Congregation, a pro-LBGT faction of the UMC, said adults could learn from the protesting teens. "They’re engaged, informed, and making hard choices," she said. "They said yes to a calling. Some would say they followed a prompting of the Holy Spirit. We adults could learn from them."