MASON CITY, Iowa - The largest mainline Protestant church in the U.S. is facing controversy after voting to reaffirm its decision to ban same sex marriage and openly gay clergy.
At the General Conference of the United Methodist Church this week, delegates from around the world voted to uphold the church's Traditional Plan by a vote of 438 to 384.
However, the decision is causing a rift in the church, with some congregations threatening to leave the denomination.
"It's tearing communities apart. Not just the churches, the whole community."
Skylar Thomas is the Vice President of Mason City Pride. She is a Christian, and says the decision is hypocritical to God's message.
"It goes back to we're all God's children. And according to their teachings, God doesn't make mistakes. But you're telling me that I'm a mistake."
Pastor Dan Fernandez of Mason City First United Methodist Church was in attendance at the conference. While he did not participate in voting, he doesn't agree with the decision. And with most of the votes in support for the ban coming from the Southern Conference, which includes Africa, he feels that the vote doesn't speak for those here in the U.S.
"Sometimes, you will think that one person's vote does not represent the whole majority of the people. But that is their right because when they go there. They will cast their vote and that's it."
However, he doesn't believe those in the LGBTQ community would leave en masse due to the vote, and feels that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, shoudl be a part of the church.
"They want to stay and continue to work and continue to enlighten the church that, 'hey, we're all God's children, and you should accept us the way we are.'"
In a statement, Bishop Laurie Haller with the Iowa Conference of the UMC says, "while many people are grateful for the decisions of the General Conference, others are devastated. I pray that you will treat one another with compassion and kindness during this time."
According to a 2014 poll from the Pew Research Center, 60% of United Methodists say that homosexuality should be accepted, while 32% said it should be discouraged.