Home Equipping Leaders CONTENT LIBRARY One Heart: Talking About the Removal of Restrictive Language in the Book of Discipline

One Heart: Talking About the Removal of Restrictive Language in the Book of Discipline

By Rev. Bradley Laurvick, Lead Pastor, First UMC, Fort Collins, CO

Group holding hands in circle 72px

“May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?” (John Wesley, “Catholic Spirit,” Sermon 39)

This article is written knowing that you, as a United Methodist Church leader or member, may get questions from those within and outside your congregation in the coming weeks and months related to decisions made at General Conference in 2024, particularly around the removal of restrictive or harmful language related to LGBTQ+ people. Now that the bulk of disaffiliations from The United Methodist Church have officially been completed, The United Methodist Church has a unique opportunity to rediscover who we would like to be as United Methodists. Some congregations may be excited about the removal of restrictive language in the Book of Discipline, while others may have concerns about those choices. Still other congregations may wish that the General Conference had gone further and incorporated new inclusive language.

Regardless of where you are a member of The United Methodist Church, you will find it valuable to understand the Methodist traditions and theology that allow for our church to enjoy space in a “radical center” that creates room for all and maintains the ability to focus on discipleship. As the See All the People family of resources remind us, “Discipleship begins with relationship.” You have the opportunity to provide a non-anxious presence in conversation as people come to you with questions. Honor the feelings that come along with the questions and encourage the conversations with invitations for those with questions to say more and ask more so that we can stay connected. Realize that for some, the questions will come due to a combination of emotional response with theological or ideological concepts layered on top.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, invited us from our beginnings as a movement to create space for difference and diversity. This is both a blessing and a challenge. The 2024 General Conference created more space in our denomination by removing restrictive language in the Book of Discipline that excluded LGBTQ+ people by no longer calling them “incompatible with Christian teaching,” prohibiting them from being clergy, and denying their pastors the choice to perform their weddings. These changes were made to our Discipline in ways that not only create space for LGBTQ+ people but also allow those who may not agree to hold their own beliefs. Click here for a detailed review of the decisions made by General Conference to the restrictive language.

When considering this change in our denomination’s disciplinary language, we might find it helpful to view it through the gifts of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason (commonly referred to as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral).


The space created in the Book of Discipline can help us live out the message that Peter shares with Cornelius in Acts 10:34 that God does not show partiality (or play favorites) with one group of people over another.

Instead of being caught up in the process of polity and disagreement of dogma (like the well-known legal experts, the Pharisees, whom Jesus would often chastise for missing the point of God’s laws), the change in our Discipline allows us to focus on living the mercy spoken of by the prophet, Hosea, (Hosea 6:6) and Jesus (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7).

Acknowledging that our Discipline has not been, is not, and may never be perfect is a humble recognition that God’s grace is sufficient and made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9).

In a world of increasing division, this moment allows us to demonstrate our longstanding commitment to being one in the Spirit, as the body of Christ. Recognizing unity is a sign of maturity. (Eph 4:1-5).

Some may be familiar with the term “clobber passages,” pieces of scripture taken out of context of their place in the Bible or words from specific translations that have been used to exclude and harm LGBTQ+ people and others. Scripture is also filled with passages and themes about inclusiveness and the story of God’s care for all people, as opposed to a select few. This article is less about engaging in a theological debate than it is about recognizing the need for conversations that can affect people on an emotional level.

To be sure, scripture and the lenses through which it can be interpreted can lead to spirited discussions related to human sexuality. If you find yourself in a church that is unsure how to discuss this topic in healthy ways, consider hosting a “Courageous Conversation” using this free guide from Discipleship Ministries.


John Wesley invited Methodists to build a universal spirit based on love, even in the midst of disagreement. “Love me, so as to think no evil of me, to put away all jealousy and evil surmising. Love me with the love that ‘covereth all things’… always willing to think the best” (John Wesley, “Catholic Spirit,” Sermon 39).

Bishop Francis Asbury proclaimed,

“If ever the church is healed of its wounds, it must be by the peaceful disposition of the pastors and people... by a full and frequent explication of the nature, pre-eminence, and power of love; that they may hear of it so much, and so long, to love be made their religion and become as the natural heat and constitution of their souls” (Frances Asbury, The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions).

One of the unifying concepts from Wesley to Asbury and into modern times for Methodism is sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit that changes us so that our lives are increasingly conformed to the mind of Christ. John Wesley called this lifelong process sanctification or becoming "perfected in love." Sanctifying grace draws us toward Christian perfection, which Wesley described as a heart "habitually filled with the love of God and neighbor" and as "having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked."

Retired United Methodist Bishop William H. Willimon explains,

"In the Bible, the word sanctification means to set something apart and make it holy, to commandeer something or someone for special use by God. This Wesleyan emphasis on sanctifying grace is perhaps our most distinctive contribution to the picture of Christian life.

"Wesley took seriously Jesus's invitation to 'be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect' (Matt 5:48). By 'perfection,' Wesley did not mean moral flawlessness or sinlessness. He meant perfection in the sense of maturity." (“What Did John Wesley Mean by ‘Moving on to Perfection’?” UMC.org, June 22, 2018, https://www.umc.org/en/content/what-did-john-wesley-mean-by-moving-on-to-perfection)

These, among other reasons, are why Methodists believe God’s primary attribute to be one of love. “We love because God first loved us” (John 4:19).


Historically, every time our denomination has removed language that excludes — such as denying people of color or women voice, vote, ordination, and, even more so, human dignity — we have been blessed by the insights and leadership of those once excluded, and we have experienced a more complete reflection of the image of God. Our experience with God’s grace leads us deeper into community, and our historical experience as a church is that our communal experiences are richer when more are included.

This decision at General Conference in 2024 was not made hastily. This conversation has been happening for more than fifty years. It has benefitted from the insights and wisdom of generations of United Methodists.


The removal of restrictive language from the Book of Discipline does not obligate anyone to do or be anything different from who they are or what they do in ministry or life. It does not require anyone to perform weddings if they chose not to. It does not require a church to host weddings. It does not force a congregation to receive a LGBTQ+ pastor.

It aids in our support of and ministry to young people, as seventy percent of young people have said, “Religious groups are ‘alienating’ young people by ‘being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.’” (“A Shifting Landscape,” Public Religion Research Institute, 2014, https://www.prri.org/research/2014-lgbt-survey/).

In addition to loving local church ministry, Rev. Brad Laurvick has also been a General Conference delegate four times and serves as the secretary to the Western Jurisdiction.

Contact Us for Help

View staff by program area to ask for additional assistance.



* indicates required

This is a bi-monthly email where you’ll receive the highest quality resources to support your disciple-making process. Everything from Helpful Articles, New Webinar Series and Podcasts, Discounted Teaching Series, and so much more!

Please confirm that you want to receive email from us.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please read our Privacy Policy page.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.