“ Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man isrevealed Strongs Number 601: apokalupto, ap-ok-al-oop´-to; from 575 and 2572; to take off the cover, i.e. disclose: — reveal.." —Luke 17:28-30
Article Source: The Washington Post
The United Methodist Church is expected to split into more than one denomination in an attempt to bring to a close a years-long and contentious fight over same-sex marriage.
A gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the U.S. flag in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kan., in April 2019. After the February 2019 vote against gay marriage and gay pastors in the United Methodist Church, many local churches rushed to tell LGBT members they remained welcome. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The historic schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.
Leaders of the church announced Friday they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.
The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.
The writers of the plan called the division “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 United Methodist Church is the United States’ largest mainline Protestant denomination and among the only remaining such churches that still does not perform same-sex marriages. The church has fought bitterly about LGBT inclusion for years, and leaders often feared the fight would lead to a schism.
Friday’s announcement came as new sanctions were set to go into effect in the church, which would have made punishments for United Methodist Church pastors who perform same-sex weddings much more severe: one year’s suspension without pay for the first wedding and removal from the clergy for any wedding after that.
Instead, leaders from liberal and conservative wings signed an agreement saying they will postpone those sanctions and instead vote to split at the worldwide church’s May general conference.
They said the agreement was brokered by Kenneth Feinberg, the mediation expert who handled the compensation fund for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, among other major negotiations.
The agreement pledges $25 million to the new “traditionalist” denomination, which will break away from the United Methodist Church, a group that is likely to include most of the church’s congregations in Africa, as well as some in the United States. In exchange, Friday’s announcement said, the new denomination would drop any claim to United Methodist assets, such as church buildings.
Any local church that wants to join the new conservative denomination would have to conduct a vote within a specified time frame, the announcement said. A church would not need to vote to remain United Methodist.
Churches that vote to leave could take certain assets with them.
An additional $2 million would go to any other new denomination that wishes to split from the church.
The plan also calls for $39 million “to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.”
After the separation, the agreement said, the remaining United Methodist Church would hold another conference with the purpose of removing the church’s bans on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy.
The 16 members of the negotiating team that reached the plan included bishops from New York, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, the Philippines and Sierra Leone. The team also included leaders from the most pro-LGBT Methodist factions, including the Reconciling Ministries Network, and the most conservative, including the Wesleyan Covenant Association and the Good News movement.
American Protestants are generally divided into three theological and cultural camps: evangelical churches, which almost unanimously oppose same-sex marriage and view gay conduct as sinful based on their reading of the Bible; historically African American denominations, which are more divided on the issue; and mainline Protestant churches, which tend to be both theologically and politically more liberal. Though mainline churches have a deep history in America — most of the Founding Fathers and most presidents since have been mainline Protestants — Pew Research Center’s 2014 count found that less than 15 percent of Americans now identify with mainline churches, while 25 percent are evangelical and 20 percent are Catholic.
Many mainline denominations, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ and others, already perform same-sex marriages and appoint gay clergy. But the United Methodist Church, the nation’s largest mainline denomination and the third-largest denomination of any faith in America, has fought bitterly over the issue, to the point that leaders have feared a schism over the issue for years.
In part, that reflects the political division in the United States: American Methodists are more conservative than other mainline Protestants. Pew Research Center found in 2014 that 54 percent lean Republican and 35 percent lean Democrat, a significantly more Republican tilt than other mainline denominations. Fifteen percent of Methodists describe themselves as “liberal,” compared with 22 percent of mainline Presbyterians, 24 percent of mainline Lutherans and 29 percent of Episcopalians.
But the larger divide is between American Methodists and foreign members of the United Methodist Church, especially churches in Africa. In a church that conducts all of its major decisions in churchwide votes, the much more conservative-leaning voters from Africa competed with American delegates who often fervently pushed for a change on same-sex marriage.
At a conference last year where church leaders had declared they would solve this issue, many American delegates favored a plan that would have allowed local churches to make their own decisions on whether to perform same-sex marriages and ordain gay clergy. Some supported a plan to simply allow same-sex marriages worldwide. They were stunned when a third option passed, instead — one dubbed the “Traditional Plan,” which ushered in not only a continued ban on LGBT weddings and clergy but also harsher penalties for those who disobey church doctrine.
Resistance to the vote began almost immediately. Groups of clergy met in several cities over the past months to formulate alternate options.