Sun. May 19th, 2024

Methodist Church Divides Over Differences

By William Cheney Apr 25, 2024

By Seth Bos and William Cheney

The United Methodist Church has separated into two denominations over disagreements concerning LGBTQ+ issues, reshaping the future trajectory of both groups.

The division within the church stems from prolonged disagreements regarding LGBTQ+ inclusion and acceptance within its doctrine. After years of debate, the United Methodist Church reached a standstill on LGBTQ+ issues.

Differing perspectives on matters such as same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy led to tensions within the denomination, resulting in a split.

The United Methodist Church affirms LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages, while the Global Methodist Church holds more traditional views regarding LGBTQ+ individuals.

Laura Marine, pastor at Herbst United Methodist Church, said that the Methodist Church has had differing views on LGBTQ+ debates since 1972.

“There was verbiage that was added to our Book of Discipline; before that, there was nothing preventing LGBTQ+ people from pastoring churches,” Marine said. “Since then, every four years at the General Conference meeting, the question is asked whether to remove it, leave it in, or make it more restrictive.”

Marine said her church held a disaffiliation vote through discernment, in which her church decided not to leave the denomination.

“Those who didn’t agree with this decision, some stayed and some left, which was difficult for everyone as we love and miss them all,” Marine said. “However, I’m glad everyone can attend wherever they feel comfortable rather than not attending church at all.”

Indiana Wesleyan University’s professor of historical theology, Dr. Miranda Cruz, said she was born and raised in the UMC until she left to attend the Wesleyan denomination.

“I started attending the UMC when I was in first grade, I grew up in it, and was confirmed in it,” Cruz said. “I started the ordination process when I was eighteen, it went on for 20 years even though I never actually finished that process, until I left the UMC and joined the Wesleyan Church a year ago.”

Cruz said her decision to join the Wesleyan denomination had no involvement with the recent split regarding these differences.

Curtis Banker, senior pastor of Hanfield Global Methodist Church, said his church held a disaffiliation vote and broke off from the UMC.

“It was a slow process, which started on December 1, 2022 … this process ended in a disaffiliation vote, in which the process was completed by the end of December 2022,” Banker said.

Banker said that the deeper issue was the basis of scriptural authority within human sexuality.

“There have been disagreements for a long time, however, this was just the tip of the iceberg so churches decided to disaffiliate,” Banker said.

Banker said he is the coordinator for church planting within his conference and has seen numerous churches being planted as a result of this division.

Dave Byrum, the interim pastor of First United Methodist Church, will serve until his term concludes at the end of June.

Byrum said the Board of Church and Society structures the whole of the denomination.

“The Board of Church and Society is sort of the social conscience for our denomination and they push us to be concerned about decisions that we make every day that impact people,” Byrum said. “Specific things like wages, being able to have a fair wage, the Board of Church and Society was instrumental in bringing about the vote for women.”

Byrum said the more conservative individuals of the church believe there should be no involvement with social justice issues.

“That side believes in sticking to preaching Jesus and letting somebody else, though I really don’t know who they think should be pushing for those social concerns,” Byrum said.

Byrum said if a church decides to leave the denomination, they are unable to maintain ownership of the building.

“There’s always been a way for churches to leave our denomination if they want to, the issue is they can’t leave the denomination with the church property because no UMC church owns any property,” Byrum said. “The trustees, our local church, hold the property in trust for the people who are called United Methodists. So when that church stops being a United Methodist Church, that property then reverts to the denomination’s trustees, who hold it in trust for the people who are United Methodist.”

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