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The Unresolved Issue

Origins of the 'Incompatible Clause'

It has become an issue which appears to have no resolution.  The denomination's discussion and debate concerning the LGBT community has it roots in Southwest Texas in the early 1970s.

Gene Leggett was a pastor in the Southwest Texas Conference. He had been active in the church since a youth and was seen as a popular pastor. He came out to his wife in 1966 and they divorced. In 1971, Leggett came out before the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. As a result, a hearing before the Board of Ministry took the decision to ask the conference to vote for involuntary location on Leggett, essentially revoking his ordination and ending his conference membership. Leggett went on to speak before the committee working on the Social Statements document at the 1972 General Conference as a lay person. In the ensuing debates and suggested amendments on the floor of the Conference, Don Hand from Southwest Texas, proposed the final clause to the sentence on civil rights for LGBT people.   

The full story of this development has been told by Robert Sledge in “The Saddest Day: Gene Leggett and The Origins of The Incompatible Clause”, Methodist History, (55:03) April 2017, pp145 - 179.

Decision of the 1972 General Conference

At the same time the General Conference considered a new theological understanding for the UMC a new social statement was also under consideration. Beginning in 1908, the churches had created a variety of statements touching such areas as worker rights, peace, lynching, economics, treatment of women, and temperance. The 1972 social statement was the first attempt at consolidating all of these historic concerns of the church, along with new concerns, to be brought together in one document. The document was amended in several ways from committee and from the floor of the General Conference, but the most significant amendment was the insertion of the ‘incompatible clause’ into the document.


Further we insist that all persons are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured, though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.


Continuing Story

For the next 46 years the debate would recur in almost every General Conference.  Finally in 2016, the General Conference said it could no longer deal with the issue. The bishops were asked to create a committee which would offer a way to put the debate to rest to the General Conference  in 2019.  In almost every succeeding General Conference this debate was the major issue and continuing story

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