Despite the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) ban on officiating same-sex weddings, they are now extending employee state benefits to same-sex spouses working in states with marriage equality, following a decision made by the board of directors of the denomination’s General Council on Finance and Administration.
The decision was made during a meeting in Arkansas at the end of April, which took into consideration a decision from October 2013 that extended the definition of the word “spouse” to include same-sex spouses and partners.
However, the decision does not extend to same-sex partners or spouses who are working in a state that does not recognize marriage equality.
UMC has suffered internal struggles over the issue during the last few years, with members of the clergy breaking church laws to officiate same-sex marriages.
Some celebrated the new church law, while others disagreed with it. According to the Huffington Post, Good News’ Reverent Tom Lambrecht posted a response in his blog to the introduction of employee benefits:
“It adopts a policy that contradicts church teaching on the definition of marriage, not only violating the beliefs and values of church members (not to mention Scripture) but creating confusion by sending a mixed message about what United Methodists believe,” he wrote.
Alongside the introduction of same-sex spousal benefits, the church also decided that clergy candidates should be allowed an interview regardless of their sexual orientation, although the UMC does not currently allow non-celibate gay clergy.