Ohio Wesleyan University's president says the school is taking a "one-year pause in its relationship" with the United Methodist Church in the wake of a worldwide meeting that upheld a ban on same-sex marriage. The move comes just after Baldwin Wallace University in Berea cut ties entirely with the church.
The United Methodist Church held its General Conference in February, where hundreds of delegates from around the world voted to continue a ban on the ordainment and marriage of the church's LGBTQ members.
Ohio Wesleyan, a private liberal arts school with about 1,500 students, was founded in 1842 by Methodist ministers. University president Rock Jones says he was disappointed in the results of the conference, but he's hopeful the church will change its mind - or be forced to divide.
“I think there is a real possibility that there will be a new form of Methodism within the next year that will be fully inclusive, reflecting the interests of the majority of American United Methodists," Jones said in an interview with WOSU.
The United Methodist Church visits its affiliated schools every 10 years. Ohio Wesleyan was due for a visit in fall 2019, but recently requested it be moved to 2020. A university spokesman on Tuesday said the school is not suspending its affiliation, but rather requesting a one-year delay in that review. However, Jones says the visit may be canceled if church law remains.
At least one Ohio school has taken more extreme measures. Last week, Baldwin Wallace trustees voted unanimously to sever ties with the Methodist Church, saying in a press release that "becoming an independent university will allow the BW community to continue to fully embrace and embody the values of diversity and inclusion today and always."
Baldwin Wallace has been affiliated with the Methodist Church since its founding as Baldwin Institute in 1845.
Jones says other schools are currently considering how to handle the United Methodist Church’s reaffirmed policy. Otterbein University, Ohio Northern University, and the University of Mount Union are also affiliated with the church.
“Because nearly all of the colleges and universities in the country are very inclusive, I think if there's a new form of Methodism, institutions of higher education will gravitate to that body," he says.
He says that's the primary way Ohio Wesleyan University could continue its relationship with the church.
“If there is a new form of Methodism, I’m confident that Ohio Wesleyan will be comfortable continuing in that historic relationship,” Jones says. “If not, I think the relationship could end.”
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Ohio Wesleyan suspended its affilliation with the United Methodist Church. That wording was misleading and has been updated.