The national leadership, and many of the Bishops, in the United Methodis Chruch are more liberal than the majority of the laity. I’m Methodist, a member of a traditional conservative congregation, and there is still a majority of us traditional Christians in the UMC. So, changing the position on homosexuality was always an uphill battle for the liberals.
But the real reason these liberal proposals were rejected is because of changing demographics. The United Methodist Church is a global church, not merely an American church. The chuech is growing rapidly in Africa and Asia, where the congregations are very traditional, very conservative. The church is more liberal in America, where the membership is declining.
About 40% of the voting representatives at our General Conference - the only organization with authority to speak on theological issues for the church - is from the conservative African churches. This percentage will grow in the coming years. In about 20 years, the average Methodist will look a lot less like a middle-aged white man in Indiana, and a lot more like a black woman in Nigeria.
This General Conference - held every four years - was the last best chance for the liberals. They failed, and will not have another chance. Demographics will make them irrelevant.
Tom Oden will be pleased.