Thousands of people have urged one of America's largest religious bodies to end all "legislative harm" against LGBTQ people.
More than 4,700 people have urged the United Methodist Church (UMC) to allow clergy to be actively LGBTQ, to permit same-sex marriages within UMC sanctuaries and to allow UMC clergy to officiate them.
The petition follows an announcement from the UMC's Council of Bishops on May 18 which said a special commission would be set up to examine and possibly revise the UMC's Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.
The bishops also committed to exploring "options to help the church live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline."
"Punishment of LGBTQ persons and allies is at the heart of the growing divide in The United Methodist Church," the petition reads.
"Immediately stopping all such actions is the only way to ensure the work of the special commission has credibility and can work towards a solution or set of solutions that will finally mend The UMC."
The UMC currently does not allow "self-avowed practising" gay people to be ordained, or same-sex marriages, and activists sought to promote the advancement of LGBTQ rights at the Church's General Conference earlier this month.
They want what they consider "discriminatory language" in the Book of Discipline – the law and doctrine of the UMC – to be removed, for gay and lesbian ministers to be ordained, and for same-sex weddings to be performed in UMC churches.
A day before the conference began on May 10, more than 100 clergy came out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and inter-sex in an attempt to force light onto the issue.
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) then started the petition following the conference as it says concrete action needs to be taken.
"While the Council of Bishops has made significant strides by historically recommending a special commission to address all aspects of the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality, there are still immediate concerns we need to address," RMN said in a statement.
Executive director Matt Berryman perviously told Christian Today the UMC was "at a point of crisis" over the sexuality issue.
"The system is breaking down," he said. "The powers that be will need to come together to figure out a way to revise the present system to create new room for people to live and move and have their being in the Church."