A church in South Florida is divided after a local pastor says he and 15 others were denied a position in their church because he is openly gay.
Kipp Nelson, who serves at the St. John's on the Lake United Methodist Church in Miami Beach, has spent his whole life serving and reconciling his sexuality with his religion.
Last week, when hundreds gathered for the Florida Clergy Conference where some are ordained and advance to senior positions, Nelson said he and the others - both gay and straight - were denied advancement.
"It’s quite heart wrenching to feel so called fulfilled by doing this work and then to be told I'm not fit to do that or I'm not allowed to do that," he said.
Nelson said he went to the conference hoping to get ordained as a provisional elder. He had been recommended by a local church and two boards.
"Truly, my body reacted and I just hunched over and balled and cried and felt the weight of 16 people crashing down on my shoulders and feeling our church is crumbling over my identity," Nelson said.
The group needed 75 percent of the vote, but fell short with 72 percent. Audrey Warren, a pastor in Miami and Nelson's supervisor, voted in favor of Nelson's commission and was disappointed it didn't happen.
"I was incredibly angry and disillusioned that the church that taught me that God loves all people," Warren said. "I believe our church is on the verge of chainring improving opening spaces to people that are denied that space."
The conference highlights the denominational division over LGBTQ+ people. Traditionalists strictly uphold the rules, which state that church has maintained the position that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
But, the bishop for Florida said the tide is turning and that some of those who voted against the commission are leaving the church.
"I want to say these words to them I grieve the harm you’ve experienced and I'm committed to the support of your call," Kenneth Carter said.
It's comforting words for a pastor looking to hope and faith for the future of the church.
"You do not have to choose and that God has created you just as you are and loves you just as you are," Nelson said.
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