The United Methodist Church will be convening in May 5-15 to vote on a proposal that will split the organization into different denominations.
The issues of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy have been controversial topics within the community and are now the reasons for the church’s proposed split.
In 2019, a Special Session of the General Conference was called, at which a Traditional Plan was approved by 53 percent of the church leaders. This plan affirmed the current restrictions placed on the LGBTQ+ clergy which includes banning ordination as well as officiating or hosting same-sex marriage.
“I hope the proposal passes,” religion major Sean Baz said. “The United Methodist Church has been fighting over this for too long. Many people have been hurt in the process, and the Church does not exist to hurt people. The Church exists to bring God to people and to bring people to God, and nobody should feel excluded and unloved in the pew of a church, regardless of who they are or who they love.”
Following the approval of the Traditional Plan, controversy continued to stir over the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community which resulted in the development of new proposals. Bishop Cythia Fierro Harvey was amongst a handful of United Methodist leaders revealing that the separation would resolve complicated differences within the community.
The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation is one of several proposals to be presented at the next General Conference in May 2020. The proposal documents the mission of the United Methodist Church as well as different adaptations that will take place if approved. For example, if the split occurs, traditionalists will be set to begin a new Methodist denomination which must be designed by May 2021.
“While many see this as a negative, I see it as evidence that those churches are doing what they should be doing,” Baz said. “Jesus never said that following his path would be easy. He never said that it would attract big donors and bring thousands through the doors of the church. He said that his followers would be persecuted and hated by the world. Full pews don’t seem to be the name of the game.”.
According to the official proposal, the more progressive, modernist groups will remain under the United Methodist Church while traditionalist will need to form their own denomination. Traditionalists will receive roughly $25 million once a plan is developed for the new denomination.
“It seems to me that this is a fair way to go. The United Methodist Church has been far from united over the course of the last few decades. I hear a lot of people say that the church should stay together in spite of stark differences, but it seems to me that striving for unity in the name of unity alone is a pointless exercise,” Baz said.
Featured on the United Methodist website is a link to the “Next Generation Legislative Overview” which further analyzes the proposal.
The goal of this new progressive United Methodist Church would be to repeal build an amicable environment beginning with eliminating any harmful language toward the LGBTQ community and integrate them more into the church.
Florida Southern’s United Methodist-affiliation may be called into question given the potential division.
“What I can speak to is how Florida Southern is related to the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church,” Chaplain Timothy Wright said. “As an affiliate entity, we would remain under the auspices of the Conference in terms of relationship and support.”
United Methodist is the second largest protestant denomination in the United States, where more than half of its 13 million members reside.
Florida Southern College was founded by the Florida Conference of the Methodist Church and continues to hold an affiliation with the organization.