ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — A cultural shift may spark the creation of a new religious denomination by dividing one of the country’s largest in two.
The United Methodist Church Council of Bishops announced a separation agreement on Friday among the church’s diverse factions.
The result would be the formation of a new “traditionalist” denomination, which continues to forbid same-sex marriage and prevent LGBTQ people from becoming clergy.
What remains of the United Methodist Church would permit them.
LGBTQ issues have been at the heart of growing divisions within the church. They became the subject of contentious debate and a worldwide conference at which church leaders rejected a plan to allow openly gay pastors and same-sex marriage.
Rev. Andy Oliver of Allendale UMC in St. Petersburg, Fla. rejected the decision and promised to continue promoting inclusion.
The delegates there saw the worst in a major part of the church, and many people who remained silent in the past have been moved to a place of advocacy and can clearly say this isn't right," said Oliver in February.
At the time, he used his church’s sign to apologize for what he views as “harm done by the church.”
The Council of Bishops said the proposed agreement to divide the church was signed on Dec. 17 by representatives from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States.
It still must be finalized.
It will be brought before the United Methodist General Conference in May 2020. Under the agreement, the new traditionalist Methodist denomination would receive $25 million from the United Methodist Church over the next four years.
Any other denominations formed as a result of the agreement would receive $2 million. There would also be $39 million provided “to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.”
The plan’s writers called it “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.”
You can read the entire separation agreement here.
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