Photo by Larry McCormack, UM News.

By Kristen Caldwell, WJ Communications

Tears of gratitude flowed again from the plenary floor – and perhaps a few sighs of relief were released – as the final pieces of the revised Social Principles of The United Methodist Church were adopted.

“And just like that, we’re no longer incompatible,” said Bishop Karen Oliveto, at a gathering of supporters outside of the Charlotte Convention Center on Thursday afternoon.

Oliveto, the first openly gay Bishop in the denomination and leader of the Mountain Sky Conference in the Western Jurisdiction, was referring to specific revisions to the Social Principles – the teaching documents and moral witness of the denomination. Delegates on Thursday voted for revisions which eliminated the language that homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity.

“We’ve never been incompatible,” Oliveto followed up.

The revised social principles were shepherded by The General Board of Church and Society. A global writing team began working 12 years ago on updating everything from the preamble to the last section on social community to be more reflective of society today as well as honoring the cultural contexts around the globe under which these principles might be carried out.

Randall Miller, a member of the California-Nevada Conference, vice president of GBCS and a lead contributor on the re-writing process, said he was “gratified” to see the last two pieces of the six-part package of legislation approved. The last two pieces were approved by a margin of 76 to 24 percent.

“It was an amazing undertaking over a period of 12 years,” he said. “They speak to our time right now.”

Miller has often referred to the re-written social principles as a “love letter” to United Methodists by United Methodists. The updated principles include language on child marriage, colonialism, reproductive health, violence and a myriad of other topics. Included in the revision was language that “we affirm human sexuality as a sacred gift …”

Rev. Ande Emmanuel from the Southern Nigeria Conference also served on the writing team. He called the revised principles relevant, grounded in theology and applicable to multiple cultural contexts across the globe.

“We are so grateful for what has happened today,” Emmanuel said.

He and Miller were joined by Bishop Sally Dyck, GBCS president; John Hill, interim general secretary for GBGS, and Dr. Elizabeth Mary Moore, editor in chief for the revised social principles writing team, in a press conference shortly after the votes were tallied.

While the revised social principles will be released in print January 1, 2025, Dyck said she encourages churches and individuals to start reading them now. The social principles are meant to be a teaching guide and part of United Methodist witness to the world.

“We’re kind of excited about what just happened,” Dyck said.

Others were kind of excited, too. As the votes were tallied, clergy wearing rainbow stoles and supporters from the Reconciling Ministries Network held hands and bowed their heads.

“Yes!” They quietly shouted. Followed by “we did it” as the session continued on.

Rev. Mary Klaehn from the Desert Southwest Conference grasped her phone, while FaceTiming with her spouse and cried that the words “incompatible” had been removed.

“It’s gone,” she said through tears. “It’s gone.”

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