The United Methodist Church announced on Friday that a proposal has been drafted to split the church due to irreconcilable differences over LGBTQ issues.
If the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” plan is approved at the UMC’s annual General Conference in May, a new “traditionalist Methodist” denomination would be formed. The denomination would be made up of churches opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. The proposal includes $25 million in UMC funds to help launch the new denomination and allows for churches that are breaking off to keep their local church properties.
Last February at a special session of the General Conference in St. Louis, years of internal conflict came to a boiling point. Delegates voted 438-384 to uphold major portions of the “Traditional Plan,” including a ban on both gay marriage and the inclusion of gay clergy.
Delegates from overseas, particularly Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, were crucial in passing the Traditional Plan.
Friday’s announcement came as new sanctions were set to go into effect that would include a one-year suspension without pay for any UMC minister who performed a same-sex wedding. And if the minister was found to have performed more than one homosexual wedding, he or she would face removal from the clergy.
“I’m not a Methodist, but I do appreciate and want to encourage those in the United Methodist Church who are standing with what the Word of God teaches,” posted Franklin Graham on Facebook. “After voting to ban same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy last year, reports now say that the denomination will soon split over the issue. That is sad news. Pray for the United Methodist Church. I would hope that Bible-believing Methodists would turn out in droves to let the UMC know that they believe and follow what God’s Word says and are not going to be a part of teaching a false doctrine, no matter the cost or the social climate of the day. Times change, but God and His Word do not. They are the same yesterday, today and forever. ‘For I am the Lord, I change not’” (Malachi 3:6).
The separation proposal states that the church is at an impasse, which is impeding its witness and mission.
The authors of the proposal—eight bishops and eight representatives from advocacy groups—believe that the only reasonable course of action is to split.
“The undersigned, in recognition of the regional contexts and divergent points of view within the global United Methodist Church, propose separation as a faithful step with the possibility of continued cooperation around matters of shared interest, enabling each of us to authentically live out our faith,” they wrote.
Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News magazine and a member of the mediation team, said, “We believed that separation was the only feasible way of resolving our conflict in the church and allowing different groups in the church to pursue ministry as they believe coincides with their understanding of the Christian faith.”
“When it comes to the Methodist Church, as the years unfold, it will not be seen so much as a separation between fellow Christians,” radio host and author Dr. Michael Brown wrote in an article for the Christian Post. “Instead, it will be seen as a separation between the wheat and the weeds or the sheep and the goats … Watch and see.”
While an official decision won’t be made for another four months, L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of the UMC, asked Christians to continue to pray for the mission and ministry of the UMC in the meantime.
“Keeping focused on our mission—making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world—must remain our priority,” he said. “There are people who do not yet know the grace, love and mercy found through relationship with Jesus Christ, and we are called to share the Good News.”
The UMC is the largest mainline Protestant denomination and the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
Above: Members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church participate in the 2019 Pride Parade in Helena, Montana.
Photo: Dan Oldenburg/Alamy Stock Photo