United Methodist Church members split on gay clergy, same-sex marriage ban

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WOODBURY -

A new, tougher ban on gay clergy and same-sex marriages is dividing members of the United Methodist Church.

The question is: Should the United Methodist Church stay with its traditional policy of banning gay clergy and same-sex marriages, or become more progressive?

The topic was discussed by nearly 900 delegates last month at a conference in St. Louis. After three days of debate, the group voted to strengthen its current policy. But that decision could now mean a split in the church that has 12 million members worldwide.

"I follow orders and play by the rules. Therefore, I will abide by the doctrine and policy of our denomination. Thus, their decision is my marching orders," says Pastor Charles Ferrara, of the United Methodist Church in Patchogue. Still, the former Army captain and retired police lieutenant says his congregation is open to everyone.

Pastor Erick Rasmussen, of the Woodbury United Methodist Church, says he doesn't believe the ban is supported by the Book of Discipline, which lays out the rules and regulations for the denomination. He says he's "a pastor who will do gay marriages."

"We are called to love, all the rest doesn't matter," Rasmussen adds.

News 12 spoke with some Long Islanders who agree. Ernest Canario, of Central Islip, says he looks at it more like a set of guidelines to make sure people are treated well.

Under the new rules, clergy who perform same-sex marriages could be suspended or removed from their churches. The judicial council within the Methodist Church is still reviewing some parts of the plan.

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