A group of United Methodist Church bishops and activists announced last week that they were supporting a proposal allowing congregations that hold to the biblical standard of marriage and sexuality to create their own denomination as a way to end the Church’s long debate over LGBT issues.
Over the past several years, the United Methodist Church has experienced intense debate over its official stance recognising homosexuality as a sin, and prohibiting same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate gay clergy.
Known as the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” the proposal would, among other things, allocate $25 million for theologically conservative Methodists to vote to leave the UMC and create their own denomination, tentatively labeled “traditionalist Methodist.”
“The United Methodist Church and its members aspire to multiply the Methodist mission in the world by restructuring the Church through respectful and dignified separation,” stated Article I of the Protocol in part.
While the Protocol is still in the proposal phase, the measure has garnered much attention, partly because of the many church leaders across the theological spectrum who have signed it.
There were reactions to the most recent proposal to split the United Methodist Church. They include support, opposition, and a belief that everyone should “take a deep breath.”
The Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the theologically conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association and one of the signatories of the Protocol, expressed his support for the measure.
“We can choose further conflict and uncertainty, or we can support a plan that frees us to be the church God desires,” wrote Boyette in a column published Tuesday.
“I appreciate your prayers, the many messages of encouragement, and even the messages that have challenged the protocol and my efforts on your behalf. I am praying for all of us as we move toward General Conference 2020.”
Last October, the WCA leadership released a statement announcing their support for an “amicable separation” plan, albeit with many of their members expressing opposition.
Retired United Methodist pastor Jack Harnish, member of the Board of Trustees at Adrian College in Michigan, called on the UMC to “take a deep breath” regarding the Protocol.
“First, all of this needs to be turned into legislation which will go to the General Conference in May, so we have at least five months of discussion and debate ahead of us and whatever comes, it will take several years to work it out,” wrote Harnish in a blog post published Sunday.
“Second, we’ve been here before. Today there are numerous Methodist and Wesleyan denominations which were at one time part of the mainline Methodist family tree and globally there are almost 100 other Methodist denominations which have been spawned from the Methodist genes.”
Harnish expressed optimism amid the likely schism, reiterating that Methodists have “been here before and we have a long ride ahead of us.”