(LFC Comments: Thanks to Donna Garner for making us aware of this recent development in the Methodist Church. We will be bringing this to our Saturday Bible study. It should make for some interesting conversation. As we have said before: We are not only in a cultural war, but in a spiritual war as well. This will not end well. Buckle up, the ride is going to get a little bumpy.)
1.3.20 – Austin American-Statesman – republished from Washington Post
“United Methodist Church Is Expected To Split Over Gay Marriage”
The United Methodist Church is expected to split into more than one denomination in an attempt to bring to a close a years-long and contentious fight over gay marriage.
The historic schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
Leaders of the church announced Friday they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose gay marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.
The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.
The writers of the plan called the division “the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”
The United Methodist Church is the United States’ largest mainline Protestant denomination and among the only remaining such churches that still does not perform gay marriages. The church has fought bitterly about LGBT inclusion for years, and leaders often feared the fight would lead to a schism.
Friday’s announcement came as new sanctions were set to go into effect in the church, which would have made punishments for United Methodist Church pastors who perform same-sex weddings much more severe: one year’s suspension without pay for the first wedding and removal from the clergy for any wedding after that.
Instead, leaders from both liberal and conservative wings of the church signed an agreement saying they will postpone those sanctions, and instead, vote to split at the worldwide church’s May 2020 general conference.
They said the agreement was brokered by Kenneth Feinberg, the mediation expert who handled the compensation fund for Sept. 11 victims, among other major negotiations.
The agreement pledges $25 million to the new “traditionalist” denomination, which will break away from the United Methodist Church, a group that would likely include most of the church’s congregations in Africa as well as some in the United States. In exchange, Friday’s announcement said, the new denomination would drop any claim to United Methodist assets, such as church buildings.
Any local church that wants to join the new conservative denomination would have to conduct a vote within a specified time frame, the announcement said. A church would not need to vote in order to remain United Methodist.
Churches that vote to leave could take certain assets with them.
An additional $2 million would go to any other new denomination that wishes to split from the church.
The plan also calls for $39 million “to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.”
After the separation, the agreement said, the remaining United Methodist Church would hold another conference with the purpose of removing the church’s bans on gay marriage and LGBT clergy.
The 16 members of the negotiating team that reached the plan included bishops from New York, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio; the Philippines; and Sierra Leone. The team also included leaders from the most pro-LGBT Methodist factions, including Reconciling Ministries Network, and the most conservative, including the Wesleyan Covenant Association and Good News.
American Protestants are generally divided into three theological and cultural camps – evangelical churches, which almost unanimously oppose gay marriage and view homosexual conduct as sinful based on their reading of the Bible; historically African-American denominations, which are more divided on the issue; and mainline Protestant churches, which tend to be both theologically and politically more liberal.
…Many mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ and others, already perform gay marriages and appoint gay clergy. But the United Methodist Church, the nation’s largest mainline denomination and the third-largest denomination of any faith in America, has fought bitterly over the issue, to the point that leaders have feared a schism over the topic for years.
…At a 2019 conference where church leaders had declared they would solve this issue, many American delegates favored a plan that would have allowed local churches to make their own decisions on whether to perform same-sex marriages and ordain gay clergy. Some supported a plan to simply allow same-sex marriages worldwide. They were stunned when a third option passed, instead — one dubbed the “Traditional Plan,” which ushered in not only a continued ban on LGBT weddings and clergy, but harsher penalties for those who disobey church doctrine…