The denominational split that everyone knew was coming now is upon the United Methodist Church. The designers of the plan say it's fair and accommodating to both sides, but not everyone agrees.
Last month a group of United Methodist leaders came up with a nine-page plan to split the denomination called "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." It was announced publicly on Friday. The issue that could not be reconciled was whether the 13-million-member church was going to allow homosexual clergy and bless same-sex unions.
Dr. Ray Rooney of American Family Association says the split was unavoidable. "This has been a long, drawn-out process," says the ordained Methodist pastor. "There never was a desire for a church split – but with the leadership of the United Methodist Church dead-set against the traditional view of marriage, it's inevitable."
The denomination met last February to decide on the issue and what was called the "Traditional Plan" – holding true to biblical sexuality – passed and was set to become the official doctrine of the UMC. Rooney says although they lost the vote then, liberal denominational leaders refused to accept the result.
"You won the battle, but the war was not over because the leadership of the Methodist Church is still trying its best to guide and shape United Methodism to accept homosexual clergy and homosexual marriage," he laments.
Under the agreement, biblical Methodist churches will form a new denomination, will be allowed to keep their properties, and will get a $25 million payout. The liberal churches will keep the United Methodist title, although Rooney says the denomination is hardly united anymore.
"You just can't coexist with people, theologically, who would look at the scriptures totally differently," he maintains. "That affects how you live life."
The denomination's Council of Bishops expects legislation to implement the new plan to come up for a vote at the UMC's General Conference in May 2020.
One of those who consulted with the denomination's leaders during the plan's development process was Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy. He predicts the General Conference likely will approve an amended version of the Protocol plan – resulting in a dividing process he says will be "messy and often tragic."
"Many local congregations will divide and die. But United Methodism is already dying in America," he argues. "This division will allow evangelistic-minded Methodism to plant new congregations and grow. American Christianity and society desperately need a theologically cohesive rejuvenated Methodism."
And Tooley views that as good news. "I'm looking forward to participating in a Methodist revival!" he states.
Editor's Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates OneNewsNow.com.
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Liberals in the United Methodist Church have masterminded a proposal to resolve the theological debate that has consumed their denomination for decades. But a lifelong member of the denomination argues that their "rigged" resolution is anything but equitable for traditionalists.
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