A regional body of the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to elect the denomination's first openly gay Black bishop last week in violation of its rules prohibiting the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals."
The UMC Western Jurisdiction, which encompasses the western U.S. and Alaska, voted to promote Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth of the California-Pacific Conference to the rank of bishop on Nov. 4 after Bridgeforth secured 73 votes out of the 93 cast. He needed 63 votes to win.
Bridgeforth, who is married to another man, said in remarks following his election that he was "grateful to God Almighty" and "to my husband, Christopher."
"It’s in the church where I have found purpose, even when I felt like it was chewing me up and spitting me out, I still couldn’t let it go," the new bishop said.
Bridgeforth's promotion to bishop was in violation of the UMC Book of Discipline, which prohibits the ordination of practicing homosexuals.
The Western Jurisdiction also appointed the first openly lesbian bishop in UMC history when they unanimously elected Karen Oliveto in 2016. Her ordination was deemed invalid by the United Methodist Judicial Council in 2017, but she remains in her position.
The UMC, which is the third-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., has faced a growing divide in recent years as congregations increasingly depart the mainline over issues of LGBTQ rights and church government.
At a special session of the General Conference in 2019, the UMC voted 438-384 to uphold the church’s bans on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex weddings.
The UMC also adopted a disaffiliation agreement that year, providing a path for churches that disagree with the vote to leave the denomination through the end of 2023 "for reasons of conscience."
Several conservative members of the Methodist clergy told Fox News Digital in June that far from settling the issue, however, the 2019 vote was disregarded by many liberal leaders within the UMC who decided to remain in the denomination while commissioning openly gay clergy and officiating same-sex weddings anyway.
John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, who has served as a UMC General Conference delegate, told The Christian Post that Bridgeforth's promotion exhibits "further direct defiance of the UMC’s official rules, which is increasingly becoming normalized."
"No one forced Mr. Bridgeforth to seek ordination and leadership in our denomination. He knew our rules forbidding same-sex partnerships, along with adultery and premarital sex, for our clergy," Lomperis said.
"Bishops are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of upholding and enforcing our church’s doctrinal and moral standards. When the bishops are so openly breaking these standards, then this is a true ‘inmates running the asylum’ situation," he added.
Many of the congregations that are leaving the mainline Methodist denomination are joining the conservative Global Methodist Church, which was founded in May.
Fox News Digital has reached out to the UMC Western Jurisdiction for comment.