Last month, the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted 438-384 to uphold its ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy, a decision that disappointed many affiliated bodies, including Otterbein University. 

In a campus statement regarding the UMC General Conference Vote, President Comerford wrote, “We stand with those in the Methodist Church community who feel disappointed and frustrated about the choice to keep doors closed for LGBTQ+ individuals who want to worship, live and lead while being authentic and honest about who they are.”  

The decision has caused local churches to feel pressure to respond to the issue, with the decision's effects impacting people in different ways. 

“Our congregation, like many, has a broad spectrum of feelings and opinions which makes it somewhat difficult to try to figure out how we can be the church together, despite our differences,” said Larry Brown, senior pastor at Powell UMC. “As a pastor, I look for ways for us to stay strong and work together.” 

          

Brown said the UMC decision is an opportunity to renew the church’s focus and mission "to share God’s love with everyone." Many other congregations, like Powell UMC, feel the same. 

Otterbein’s leadership is currently reflecting on what the vote means for its community and future. Otterbein’s historic values of inclusion were reaffirmed by the board of trustees on Feb. 12. Comerford said that conversation is just the beginning.   

“We respect, value and recognize the emotional, spiritual and intellectual volatility of this reality, but we pledge to stay true to our values and make intentional decisions with all of our community members in mind,” said Comerford. “Otterbein continues to stand as a leader in the country for inclusivity.  This will not change, and all should know they are welcome here.” 

          

The UMC vote will be reviewed by the church’s Judicial Council, which is expected to rule on whether it's in accordance with the church’s constitution at a meeting in late April. 

According to a campus update email sent to faculty and staff last Tuesday, university Chaplain Judy Guion-Utsler will explain the university's options regarding the UMC decisions at a future town hall meeting. 

Comerford said this will be an important topic as the institution moves toward the April board of trustees meeting. 

“Regardless of our specific response, I believe we can all relish in the opportunity to stand proud for what Otterbein has always been – a college of opportunity for all,” said Comerford.