After a years-long debate and fight over the United Methodist Church’s stance on same-sex marriage, church leaders have decided to split into two denominations. The plan only needs to be approved by a vote at the worldwide conference this coming May. While many conservatives and liberals within the church are content with the compromise, some see it as a temporary fix to a larger problem.
Reverend T.C. Morrow, a gay woman who was ordained last year after being repeatedly rejected over the past decade, sees it as a question that will come up again in the “traditionalist” denomination. Morrow says, “Any time you’re baptizing babies and raising them in the church, you’re always going to have new generations of LGBTQ people, so it’s not like the question of LGBTQ inclusion is going to go away, even in a conservative denomination.”
According to The Washington Post, those who constructed the plan said it was “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.”
Before coming up with this compromise, many leaders were afraid that the debate would lead to a schism of the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. This comes at a time when fewer and fewer Americans identify with mainline churches. According to Pew Research Center’s 2014 study, “less than 15 percent of Americans now identify with mainline churches, while 25 percent are evangelical and 20 percent are Catholic.”
The agreement has pledged $25 million to the “traditionalist” denomination that plans to break away from the larger United Methodist Church. The new denomination will no longer have a claim to United Methodist assets. Local churches that want to join will need to conduct a vote within a certain frame of time.
The new denomination will continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy. The plan came into place just as more severe sanctions were set to be placed against any clergy who performed same-sex weddings. According to msn.com, the punishment would have been “one year’s suspension without pay for the first wedding and removal from the clergy for any wedding after that.”
While American protestants are generally divided on the issue of gay marriage, this polarization may also be due to a stark political divide many feel exists in the country. This plan provides the opportunity for local churches to vote on the matter and includes the pledge that they can take certain assets with them if they choose to leave.
The plan also adds that $39 million will be provided in order to make sure that no ministries for communities that are historically marginalized by racism will be disrupted during this time.