The United Methodist Church, a global denomination of 13 million people, announced a plan Friday for splitting itself due to pressure to end the church’s policies that bar same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.
According to UM News, the church’s news service, a 16-member team of United Methodist bishops and other leaders developed the plan that would allow those members of the church who wish to preserve traditional marriage and clergy ordination to form a new denomination.
BREAKING NEWS: Proposal from a diverse group of traditionalists, centrists and progressives maintains the #UMC but provides $25 million for traditionalist churches to start new denomination.https://t.co/NwnucdZ3EL
— UM News Service (@UMNS) January 3, 2020
The new denomination would receive $25 million in United Methodist funds and would retain its local church properties, reported UM News.
According to the news report, well-known mediator Kenneth Feinberg donated his time to lead the negotiations. Feinberg had assisted with the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.
The nine-page separation plan, titled “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation,” must be approved by the 2020 General Conference to be held in May in Minneapolis.
UM News noted discussions over same-sex marriage and ordination of gay clergy have been highly contentious within the church, as observed during last year’s General Conference in St. Louis.
“It became clear that the line in the sand had turned into a canyon,” said New York Conference Bishop Thomas Bickerton. “The impasse is such that we have come to the realization that we just can’t stay that way any longer.”
Bickerton added the proposal “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.”
According to the plan, once the traditionalist group separates, the United Methodist Church that remains will be divided into regions and have the ability to adapt church policies, including those on LGBT issues. Other United Methodist churches would also be able to form their own denominations.
UM News noted about the traditionalist group:
The traditionalist Wesleyan Covenant Association [WCA] already has taken steps toward forming a new denomination, such as drafting a book of policies and doctrines. Bickerton and the Rev. Keith Boyette, WCA president, said the negotiating team’s assumption is that the new church would emerge out of the WCA.
“I believe this is a fair and equitable solution that puts decades of conflict behind us and gives us a hopeful future,” Boyette said.