The United Methodist Church (UMC) will be splitting into two denominations based on differences in beliefs of LGBT marriage and ordination.
Traditional and progressive groups in the UMC have reached a settlement that both of them believe is an answer to prayer.
The UMC's stance on sexuality which was stated in 1972 is the item causing debate. It says, “homosexuals no less than heterosexuals are persons of sacred worth,” but “the practice of homosexuality … incompatible with Christian teaching.” The UMC consists of 12.5 million members who have been battling for decades about these differences. The progressive groups want to support LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination, whereas, traditionalist UMC groups did not believe that sexuality should even be a question let alone affirmed by the church.
Jan Lawrence, who is the director of the Reconciling Ministries Network approves of the split. “The potential to have the anti-LGBTQ language removed in 2020 is amazing, and the agreement to start a moratorium two days ago, those are very positive things for LGBTQ United Methodists,” Lawrence says to Christianity Today.
“I believe this is a fair and equitable solution that puts decades of conflict behind us and gives us a hopeful future."
In the nine pages of the agreement titled, the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, the purpose, and reasoning behind the agreement are outlined. The UMC will be providing $25 million over four years to the traditionalist congregations so that they may establish their new denomination. With this payment, the traditionalist groups surrender their ability to be on general boards and access UMC general assets.
Other United Methodist churches are able to form their own denominations as well and there is $2 million set aside to help support potential new denominations. The agreement was not developed easily, but as its name states, they hope to find "reconciliation and grace through separation."
"Our ultimate goal of setting each other free to do ministry as we believe God would have us do has come to fruition.”
One section reads: "the undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as 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."
An approval vote still remains before this agreement is put into effect. The UMC's legislative board comprised of 16 diverse members, will have to approve the protocol. They are reported to already be unanimously in favour of the motion.
The President and Publisher of Good News and pastor of adult discipleship at The Woodlands UMC near Houston hopes this decision will bring peace. He says to CT, “We were never going to find a way to move forward together. Our ultimate goal of setting each other free to do ministry as we believe God would have us do has come to fruition.”
Rev. Keith Boyette a member of the board that drafted the protocol says to United Methodist News, “I believe this is a fair and equitable solution that puts decades of conflict behind us and gives us a hopeful future."