2018-APR-28: A UMC congregation's entire confirmation class refused to join the church:
This year's confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, NE consisted of eight teenagers, aged 13 and 14. They had completed their course which normally leads to them all joining the Church on Confirmation Sunday. Instead, they made an unprecedented move: they all declined to join the church at this time. They took their stand on principle. They objected to the Denomination's decision in February to preserve and strengthen its level of discrimination against the LGBT community.
"We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision. We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage are immoral. ..."
"We are not standing just for ourselves; we are standing for every single member of the LGBTQ+ community who is hurting right now. Because we were raised in this church, we believe that if we all stand together as a whole, we can make a difference."
They received a standing ovation from the congregation!
Pastor the Rev. Kent Little said that he:
"... and our associate pastor are in full support of their decision. We’re proud of them. It’s not an easy thing to do to resist." 13
2019-APR: Church court upholds ban on LBGT clergy & same-sex marriage:
The "Traditional Plan" that was approved in February's General Conference takes effect at the start of the year 2020. It strengthens language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline that bars LGBTQ clergy and forbids same-sex marriage across the entire world. On APR-26, the plan was approved by a Judicial Council decision. The Book defines "self-avowed practicing homosexual" as a person who is "living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual." Bishops are prohibited from consecrating, ordaining or commissioning them. Also, church bodies cannot approve or recommend them as candidates. Effective during 2020-JAN, a member of the clergy who performs a same-sex wedding will face a minimum one-year suspension without pay. If a clergy member repeats the action, they will have their credentials terminated.
However, the court found that seven of the 17 petitions that made up the Traditional Plan are unconstitutional and will not be added with the others into the Book of Discipline.
In a separate ruling on APR-26, the court upheld an "exit plan" that allows congregations that disagree with decisions made at the special session to leave the denomination while continuing to own their property, if they disagree with decisions made at the special session.
There is evidence that a future church split may occur. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) said that the court ruling:
"... confirms that United Methodism will continue to globalize and move in a more traditionalist and orthodox direction.
This ruling should also alert adamant dissenters that the church’s teaching on marriage will not change and that the time has come for creating new more liberal denominations that will accommodate their views. Traditionalists are willing to assist in this process on generous terms." 11
On APR-29 Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, discussed the internal debate within the UMC over human sexuality during his podcast "The Briefing." He predicted:
"The United Methodist Church is not going to be able to hold together. It is not going to be a united Methodist Church. The polarities within the denomination are simply too great." 12
Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, acknowledged that:
"... some disappointed church liberals still hope for revocation [of the Traditional Plan] at the next General Conference in 2020. But the wiser among them realize that membership trends, with growth in Africa and decline in the American church's most liberal regions, preclude such hope." 12
Tooley wrote a blog post on APR-29, saying:
"Shorn of these clergy, including most U.S. bishops, nearly all the official seminaries, church agencies and other institutional forces for cultural conformity, global United Methodism will have to develop new resources as a countercultural force in America. There will be new seminaries and other forms of theological training, new publishing and media outlets, new less inert agencies, new concepts of episcopal leadership, new focus on soul-winning and church planting, new understandings of Christian community that is joyfully countercultural." 12
2019-MAY-01: Webmaster's comment:
Support for the LGBT community and marriage equality is steadily increasing in the U.S. and in many other areas of the world. I agree that internal strains in the UMC will probably result in a new, separate, more liberal, Methodist denomination being created in the near future. I suspect that it will eventually grow to become the largest Methodist faith group, at least in the U.S. It would certainly be more attractive to most U.S. millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) than a denomination that discriminates against LGBT members and clergy. There is a reasonable probability that differences between the two groups will lessen in the future, and that they may merge again into a single denomination. Time will tell.
2019-SEP-18: UMC discusses plans to split the denomination:
SEP-18 was the deadline for petitions to be raised at its next global meeting. It will be held during 2020-MAY in Minneapolis. To be considered is an "amicable and orderly breakup of a worldwide church" -- the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The result would be two or three denominations with varying beliefs and practices concerning the LGBT community. The cause of the breakup was a decision during 2019-FEB that barred LGBT members from marriage to same-sex partners and from ordination.
UMC Bishops in the Philippines, African countries, and other areas of the world which are more religiously conservative have urged unity. Moderates and liberals, who are mostly from the U.S., urge separation.
Kent Millard, President of the United Theological Seminary, said:
"It's not a divorce. It's giving life to expressions of the church that are now in conflict.
Many of the breakup proposals would allow congregation that exit the denomination to retain ties to UMC organizations, such as its publishing houses.
Breakups have happened within some Christian Denominations in the past because different groups within the faith group have developed conflicts based on human sexuality, gender, etc. Some splits have been resolved over time and resulted in the groups partly or completely reunifying. 14
2019-DEC-15: Largest UMC megachurch is leaving the denomination:
The congregation of Grace Fellowship Church of Katy, TX of the Texas Annual Conference voted to leave the UMC because of the homosexual confict.
Jim Leggett, the church's founding pastor said that his congregation wanted:
" ... to remove ourselves from the dysfunctional fighting going on in the United Methodist Church so that we can fully devote our energies to fulfilling the mission and vision that God has given to us."
"At one point, we looked up and noticed that we were spending easily 30 percent of our leadership meeting time discussing the issues of the UMC, and we realized that this was not good stewardship of our time and resources for the Kingdom of God."
"In the last year, it has become clear to us that despite having biblical standards of morality on paper in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the leadership of the United Methodist Church is unable or unwilling to live by those standards." 15
Adam Hamilton is a Christian author and pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. He said that:
"A year from now, we will not be the same church that we are today."
He estimated that the UMC will lose between 3,400 and 7,500 congregations during 2020 because of the conflict over sexual orientation, That would include between 22 and 50% of all UMC congregations. He believes that 3,400 to 6,800 congretations will leave the UMC and create a conservative Methodist denomination, while 300 to 1,000 congregations will leave because they feel that the UMC is insufficiently inclusive.
Pastor Talbot Davis of Good Shepherd UMC of Charlotte, NC supports the Traditional Plan. He said:
"I am delighted that the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted the Traditional Plan as we believe in the beautiful picture of celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage that is woven throughout the pages of Scripture as well as church teaching for since its inception.
We gladly join with our global brothers and sisters in teaching this truth with as much love and winsomeness as we can."
2020-JAN-03: The United Methodist Church is expected to officially split into two denominations:
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is currently the third largest Christian denomination and the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. (The largest Christian denomination is the Roman Catholic Church. The largest Protestant denomination is the Southern Baptist Church.) The UMC has a total of about 13 million members totally, with about half of them living in the U.S.
For years, the denomination has been in conflict over the topic of homosexuality -- specifically whether its pastors should be free to perform marriages of same-sex couples, and whether qualified lesbian and gay applicants should be eligible to be ordained as pastors.
At their general conference in St. Louis last February, a narrow majority of representatives (53%) voted to tighten the church ban on same-sex marriages. They approved a statement saying that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." Four or more ballots were cast by individuals from African delegations who were not authorized to vote at the conference. However, the 54 vote margin to discriminate against the LGBT community was sufficient to far outweigh the unauthorized votes.
After the Conference, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Louisiana joined with 14 other church representatives to form a committee to seek a path forward for the denomination. She said:
"We tried to look for ways that we could gracefully live together with all our differences, It just didn’t look like that was even possible anymore."
The committee writers said that denomination split 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." 17
I am having difficulty understanding how the creation of a new denomination that discriminates against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation recognizes the latter's "dignity, equality, integrity, and respect." Until recently, most people beleived that homosexual orientation was both chosen and changeable. However, recent research shows that it is neither. It is set up long before birth by epigenetics which involves a layer on top of a person's DNA that turns various genes on and off. A saliva test has been developed that detects with 83% accuracy which males have a homosexual orientation. Exodus International attempted for three decades to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality with little or no success until they finally gave up and disbanded in mid-2013.
Another member of the committee, New York Conference Bishop Thomas Bickerton, said that it was necessary to find a compromise:
"It became clear that the line in the sand had turned into a canyon. 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." 19
The UMC is expected to create a new, separate denomination for conservative Methodists who oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay/lesbian clergy. It will be called "Traditionalist Methodist."19 It will be given $25 million in UMC funds. The congregations that leave the UMC will retain ownersip of their church properties.
Most African UMC churches are expected to join the new group, along with an unknown number of U.S. congregations.
More details of how the denomination will be split will be ironed out later in 2020, and the plan will be voted upon at the next UMC global conference during 2020-MAY at Minneapolis, MN.
Campbell Robertson & Elizabeth Dias, writing for the New York Times, said:
"The initial response from some [UMC] conservatives and liberals after the announcement suggests its passage is likely." 18
The Rev. Tom Berlin, a committee member who favors acceptance of the LGBT community, said:
“The solution that we received is a welcome relief to the conflict we have been experiencing. I am very encouraged that the United Methodist Church found a way to offer a resolution to a long conflict.”
Tom Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, a conservative UMC group, said:
"It is not everything that we would have hoped for, but we think it is a good agreement that gets us out of the decades-long conflict that we have experienced, and enables us to focus on ministry in a positive way." 18
Andrew Ponder Williams, a married gay candidate for the UMC clergy, has been actively involved in finding a solution to the church conflict. He said that the split will:
"... free the Methodist church to share love unconditionally with all people." 17
Jan Lawrence, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a UMC pro-LGBT group, said that the separation plan:
"... gives the hope that we can move toward a church that allows healing to begin."20
Andrew Ponder Williams, a married gay candidate for the UMC clergy, said that the split is:
“... going to free the Methodist church to share love unconditionally with all people,”20
This series of articles will be expanded as new developments occur.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyper links are not necessarily still active today.
"Way Forward: Talks & Marketing," United Methodist Insight, Email sent on 2018-AUG-03.
Michael Gryboski, "Adam Hamilton says UMC will lose at least 3,400 churches next year over LGBT debate," Christian Post, 2019-DEC-27, at: https://www.christianpost.com/
"United Methodist Church is expected to split over gay marriage, fracturing the nation’s third-largest denomination," The Washington Post, 2020-JAN-03, at:
Campbell Robertson & Elizabeth Dias, "United Methodist Church Announces Plan to Split Over Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2020-JAN-03 at: https://www.nytimes.com/
Kayla Koslosky, "United Methodist Church announces plan to split over same-sex marriage, LGBT ordination," Christian Headlines, 2020-JAN-03, at: https://www.christianheadlines.com/
Julie Zauzmer, "United Methodist Church is expected to split over gay marriage, fracturing the nation’s third-largest denomination," The Washington Post, q0q0-JAN-03, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/