The United Methodist Church announced on Friday that they are planning to split the denomination.
According to The Washington Post, UMC church leaders shared in a nine-page announcement that an agreement had been reached allowing for the creation of a new denomination for traditional-minded churches within the UMC.
If the plan is approved in May at the UMC’s annual General Conference, the new denomination will be called “Traditionalist Methodist” and will be made up of all of the churches opposing same-sex marriage and LGBT ordination. The plan would also give the new denomination $25 million in UMC funds and allow the churches that are breaking off to keep their local church properties, United Methodist News reports. The plan also designates $39 million toward ensuring that “there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.”
According to The Washington Post, the majority of the UMC’s African churches along with several American churches are expected to adopt the Traditionalist Methodist denomination.
Following the split, the remaining part of the UMC will hold a second conference in order to remove bans on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. The remaining part of the UMC will maintain the denominational title of United Methodist.
UM News reports that the plan – which is still officially being drafted – was created by a 16-member group of UMC bishops and church leaders and renowned mediator Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg first gained public attention for his work on the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
One member of the group, New York Conference Bishop Thomas Bickerton, said after a years-long debate, it was necessary to find a compromise.
“It became clear that the line in the sand had turned into a canyon,” Bickerton said, according to UM News. “The impasse is such that we have come to the realization that we just can’t stay that way any longer.
“This protocol provides a pathway that acknowledges our differences, respects everyone in the process and graciously allows us to continue to live out the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, albeit in different expressions.”
Other writers of the compromise agreed, noting that breaking apart is “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 Washington Post reports.
The Friday announcement came just as new sanctions were set to go into effect in the church. The sanctions, which have now been put on hold until the UMC can vote on the new compromise in May, would have put any minister who performed one same-sex wedding at risk of a one-year suspension without pay. After performing more than one wedding, the minister would face removal from the clergy.
The UMC is the largest mainline Protestant denomination and the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
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