The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to settle the question of the church’s stance on homosexuality at a special General Conference in February 2019. But nothing was settled.
Now, a year later, as delegates prepare for the quadrennial General Conference in May, it seems inevitable that the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States is going to split. Signs of division are everywhere.
“There’s a growing consensus that division is going to happen one way or another, and it’s better for pretty much everyone if it happens by the General Conference rather than unfolding chaotically,” said Mark Tooley, a Methodist and president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
Last year’s decision to strengthen the UMC’s traditional position against same-sex marriage and married LGBT clergy prompted at least 11 liberal congregations to start the process of leaving the denomination. Eight regional conferences have ordained clergy in defiance of the decision, and four have adopted resolutions to challenge the General Conference’s decision, questioning its constitutionality in the church’s court.
Some congregations have withheld funding. In the first six months of 2019, the denomination’s finances were down nearly $5 million, compared with the same period the previous year.
It isn’t just LGBT-affirming congregations that have a problem with the decision either. Seven conservative congregations in Mississippi have separated, saying there shouldn’t even be a debate about sexuality.
As UMC delegates prepare for the 2020 General Conference, the conversation is less focused on whether or not the church should divide than on the question of how. They are considering ...1
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