(Gray News) – Bishops and representatives announced a proposed agreement Friday to split the United Methodist Church.
The proposal would create a new conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination and potentially other denominations in the coming years.
The “traditionalist” denomination would receive $25 million over the next four years, according to the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.
The plan allows for the restructuring of the remaining global United Methodist Church into regions, with the flexibility to adapt church policies, including on LGBTQ inclusion, according to the United Methodist News Service.
“This protocol 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,” Bishop Thomas Bickerton said.
The move to split the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. comes after last year’s special session of the church’s general conference, a global meeting of United Methodists.
At that time, the church voted during a highly contentious session to strengthen its bans on the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ members.
“It became clear that the line in the sand had turned into a canyon,” Bickerton said. “The impasse is such that we have come to the realization that we just can’t stay that way any longer."
Jan Lawrence with the Reconciling Ministries Network has long sought to remove restrictions against LGBTQ participation in the denomination.
“As a United Methodist who is LGBTQ, my priority at the table was to make sure we addressed the full participation of LGBTQ people in the life of the church, making sure the answer was not ‘ask us again in 2024,’" she said. “The language needs to be removed now. I am pleased that there is opportunity here for that to happen in 2020.”
The traditionalist Wesleyan Covenant Association already has taken steps toward forming a new denomination.
Rev. Keith Boyette, WCA president, said traditionalists have long felt that divisions in the church were irreparable and that an amicable separation was the best way forward.
“I believe this is a fair and equitable solution that puts decades of conflict behind us and gives us a hopeful future,” he said.
The proposal to split the denomination would need to be approved at a meeting of the general conference in May in Minneapolis.