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United Methodist Church upholds restrictions on same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy

Posted by Brandon Boatwright

The United Methodist Church (UMC) on Tuesday voted to uphold language in its discipline that restricts LGBT inclusion in the church. As a global organization, delegates from around the world gathered in St. Louis to vote on a way forward for the church which has long struggled over the issue of same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT clergy.

As the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, the UMC called a special General Conference session to debate three proposed plans that outlined paths addressing the topic. The ‘Traditionalist Plan’ – the more conservative approach which upheld the church’s restrictive language on LGBT inclusion – won by simple majority on Tuesday afternoon, albeit amid controversy over its constitutionality.

The vote has the potential to fundamentally alter the landscape of the UMC in the United States and abroad. Given its significance, it’s no surprise that social media erupted in response to the conference and, specifically, Tuesday’s controversial vote.

Over the span of the conference which took place from Feb. 23 to 26, more than 68,000 tweets were sent using #GC2019. Of those, 29,774 (around 44 percent) were posted on Tuesday. Conversation spiked between 5 and 6 p.m. that evening, shortly after the vote for the Traditionalist Plan passed.

A word cloud summarizes the entirety of the conversation around #GC2019, showing the most frequently used words used in tweets during the conference.

Notably, the phone numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Trevor Lifeline reflect some of the most commonly used topics of conversation following the event. Most of these mentions reflect retweets from the Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization seeking the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in both the policy and practices of United Methodist Church.

As conversation continues around the broader implications associated with the adoption of the Traditionalist Plan, it remains to be seen what effects – if any – the social media discussion will play going forward.