United Methodists are preparing for an important meeting in St. Louis this weekend where the issue of openly homosexual pastors will be discussed.
UMC delegates will gather Saturday through Tuesday, Feb. 23-26, for a special general conference where discussion could include allowing the open practice of homosexuality.
One option open to the denomination is the "Tradition Plan" that adheres to biblical orthodoxy about marriage and sexuality.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and a UMC layman, says he is hopeful delegates back the Tradition Plan and thus "affirming the church's current biblical teachings on sexuality and facilitating departure by churches who cannot abide those teachings."
A recent UMC survey of 541 respondents revealed that self-identified theological conservatives outnumber self-identified theological liberals, The Christian Post reported, citing an online survey of UMC laity conducted last fall.
In the survey, 44 percent identified as "Conservative-Traditionalist" and only 20 percent identified as "Progressive-Liberal." Another 28 percent identified as "Moderate-Centrist" and the remaining eight percent were "Unsure."
Tooley says the lopsided results confirm what UMC conservatives have already known: liberals have always been a minority even though they enjoy a disproportionate amount of power in the UMC, including in the "higher echelons" within the denomination.
Even worse for them, he adds, a figure of 20 percent would mean liberals are only about 11 percent of global membership.
Tooley believes the votes are there to pass the Traditional Plan, but he is concerned that once liberals realize that they don't have the votes, they will protest and/or prevent a vote through parliamentary procedure, which could delay the process past the general conference.