Otterbein University’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church (UMC) will continue following the church’s Special General Conference this past February.

Throughout June and July, the annual conferences met to vote for representatives to the next General Conference, juxtaposing sentiments on LGBT members that came following the Special General Conference this past February.

The annual conferences finished in late July, with 76 percent of the US annual conferences having voted for representatives to the 2020 General Conference that were against the Traditional Plan.

This Traditional Plan broadens the definition of “self-avowed, practicing homosexual”; puts penalties in place for disobedience to the Book of Discipline; and requires bishops, pastors and annual conferences to certify adherence to the Book of Discipline according to the Special General Conference literature.

          

This change in representatives, along with a different ruling from the denomination’s judicial council, has left much still to be decided.

According to Jenny Hill, Otterbein’s director of communications, the university will continue to be fully inclusive of all people, and she sees no reason to change its affiliation while the situation is still ongoing.

“A lot of the schools who are still affiliated with the UMC but have chosen not to disaffiliate at this time are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to see if the church changes course in a pro-LGBTQ way or a splinter church branches off that these schools might better align with,” said Hill.

          

Following the February vote, the Otterbein Board of Trustees released a statement standing for full inclusivity, “Otterbein believes in the UMC motto of ‘Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.’ That’s why Otterbein will continue to welcome, affirm, nurture and regard as essential the LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff as part of its diverse and inclusive community.”

University chaplain Judy Guion-Utsler said, “What President Comerford has said is that there is a benefit of being affiliated as a Christian institution and doing that differently. To be progressive. To be inclusive. To focus on issues of sustainability and equity. To focus on all the things that makes Otterbein what it is and do that in a different way.”

Because Otterbein does not receive any financial assistance from the UMC, its designation as a Methodist affiliated university will not affect its students.