The United Methodist Church announced last Friday, January 3, that they have officially set a date to vote on a split. The vote is a response to division on whether or not churches want to allow same-gender marriage or appoint LGBTQ folks to be clergy. In February of 2019, the church voted to strengthen its ban on these issues. The new vote is scheduled to take place in May of 2020, during the Methodist general conference in Minneapolis.
According to New Now Next, If the church votes to split, at least one more denomination, being referred to as traditionalist, will break off from the United Methodist Church. The traditionalist denomination will continue their ban on LGBTQ issues, while more progressive churches implement inclusive standards for same-gender marriages and LGBTQ members or positions held in the church.
The vote comes after years of opposition between members and leaders of the church. The plan is being called “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” because state leaders believe this is the most amicable way for them to resolve their differences and practice Christianity according to specific interpretations of its teachings.
The Supreme Court legalized same-gender marriage in 2015, eradicating bans in all 50 states and requiring states to acknowledge out-of-state marriage licenses. This decision was monumental for the LGBTQ community, however, it did not do away with prejudices among many religious organizations. In the past year, there have been several cases of pastors being penalized for defying the current rules upheld by the Methodist Church due to performing same-gender marriages. Sanctions came in the form of extended leave without pay and possible removal from the clergy after multiple offenses. In the wake of the decision to hold the vote, sanctions against current offenders are being put on hold.
The First Amendment states that legislatures throughout the country “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means that no denomination, or religion, be given partisanship by the government and that citizens be allowed to acknowledge and practice any faith they so choose. This law applies to state and federal administrations. Despite the fact that many influential representatives use their faith for a specific agenda, it is important to recognize that it goes against the Constitution to allow one’s faith to influence decisions or implementations while in office, no matter the position.
In other words, even though same-sex marriage is now legal across the country, the seperation of church and state allows prejudices to exist behind closed doors of religious organizations. Not only that, but individuals running for any governmental position are still using their ideals to sway voters. Although this split may have a profound impact on Methodist members all over the world, there is still a lot of work to be done in regards to religion and its impact on prejudices that still influence the way U.S. citizens expect government to be run.
In fact, there are over 12 million practicing members of the Methodist Church worldwide, and there has been an ever-growing divide between U.S. members and those in countries such as Asia and Africa. These areas of the world maintain strict, biblical interpretations and remain socially conservative in their beliefs. As such, the split has larger, worldwide implications than it does here in the United States.
The church’s General Council on Finance and Administration will provide $25 million to the new traditionalist denomination over a period of four years if the vote passes. They will also set aside another $2 million dollars for any additional denominations that do not fit into either the United Methodist or traditionalist churches. This decision will come as a sigh of relief for members on both sides of the issue, giving them freedom to practice their beliefs without fear of prosecution from contradicting groups.
While the outcome of the vote is not certain, there is currently overwhelming support to enact the plan and continue moving forward in an effort to peaceably settle religious opposition.