The United Methodist Church has been in the news this past week. The church, which is the third-largest Christian denomination in the United States, is expected to split sometime later this year.
The United Methodist Church, a Protestant denomination, is expected to split into two denominations after years of disagreements over same-sex marriage.
Leaders of the church made an announcement on Friday. The schism would create a "traditionalist Methodist" denomination, which would continue the Christian tradition of opposing same-sex marriage and would not allow members of the LGBTQ community to become members of the clergy.
The rest of the church would be able to then go on to perform same-sex marriages without oppressing the LGBTQ community using their scripture as an excuse for bigotry.
This plan to split the church in two still needs to get final approval, which will not be able to happen until May, at the United Methodist Church's worldwide conference.
According to the church leaders who drafted the plan, it 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.”
Right, except the "traditionalist Methodist" denomination will continue not recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, or offering any respect to members of the LGBTQ community.
Among those that concocted this plan was Bishop Kenneth Carter. He said, “I’ve always been committed to unity. But over time, it could not be unity at someone’s expense.”
Both conservative bigots and more tolerant liberal Methodists praised the plan, wanting to either oppress people or welcome them depending which side of the issue they took.
One of those conservative bigots is Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, a "traditionalist" Methodist organization. Speaking about the plan, he said, “We believed that separation was the only feasible way of resolving our conflict in the church and allowing different groups in the church to pursue ministry as they believe coincides with their understanding of the Christian faith.”
Meanwhile, Jan Lawrence, who is the executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-LGBTQ group within the church, said the plan “gives the hope that we can move toward a church that allows healing to begin.”
The tension that has lead to this impending schism has been brewing for years. In fact, new rules were about to go into effect that would have made pastors who perform a same-sex wedding suspended for a year without pay... for the first offense.
Performing another same-sex wedding after that would have resulted in complete removal from the clergy.
This led to the conservative bigots and the more liberal-minded church leaders coming together to create this new plan. By signing the agreement, the church leaders agreed to postpone the enactment of the new harsher punishments until after the church's worldwide conference in May, where they will vote to split the church.
And of course, since we are talking about religion, money plays a role. As part of the deal, the agreement gives $25 million to the new “traditionalist” denomination, leaving the rest of the church's resources for the remaining United Methodist Church.
Local churches that want to join the new "traditionalist" denomination and leave the United Methodist Church will need to conduct a vote. Any church that would like to continue in the United Methodist Church will not need to take any action.
After the Pew Research Center released new data on Christianity's rapid decline in the United States just a few months ago, I cannot help but revel in these various denominations tearing themselves apart.
I can only hope that many of these people who are willing to look past scripture to see the humanity in members of the LGBTQ community ultimately see how unnecessary their faith is in general. The more who throw off the "mind-forged manacles of servility and superstition," as Christopher Hitchens put it, the better off society becomes.