Conservative leaders within the United Methodist Church (UMC) have unveiled their plans to form a new denomination.
The Global Methodist Church will follow a biblical New Testament doctrine that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The move could hasten the long-expected breakup of the UMC over differing approaches to LGBTQ inclusion. As CBN News has reported, church watchers were not surprised by the news of the proposed division of the nation’s largest denomination. Church members have been at odds for years over the issue, with some members in the United States leading the call for full inclusion for LGBTQ people.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UMC’s General Conference — at which the schism would be debated — is now scheduled to take place in Minneapolis starting in late August of 2022.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, a Methodist elder from Virginia who chairs the Global Methodist initiative, says he and his allies do not want to wait that long to formally leave the UMC. They have asked that the topic of schism be added to the tightly limited agenda of a special one-day General Conference to be conducted online on May 8.
“The church is basically stalemated right now,” Boyette said. “We don’t believe an additional year is going to be helpful for anybody.”
However, Louisiana-based Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who heads the UMC’s Council of Bishops, said the debate over a schism would involve “delicate deliberations” and attempting to conduct them online in May “does not seem wise or ethical.”
If the issue is not addressed on May 8, Boyette said he and his allies would be willing to delay until the 2022 General Conference, but only if UMC centrists and progressives remain committed to previous agreements about a breakup. Any lessening of those commitments might prompt the conservatives to bring the new church into existence, Boyette said.
Global Methodist organizers have launched a new website which states the new denomination would allow women to serve at all levels and seek a membership that is “ethnically and racially diverse.”
Regarding LGBTQ issues, organizers said the denomination would adhere to “the traditional understanding of Christian marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman and as God’s intended setting for human sexual expression.”
As CBN News reported, at a specially called meeting in February 2019 in St. Louis, Mo. delegates voted 438-384 for a proposal called the Traditional Plan, which affirmed bans on LGBTQ-inclusive practices. A majority of U.S.-based delegates opposed the plan, but they were outvoted by U.S. conservatives teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines.
In January of 2020, Boyette, who was one of 16 people on a mediation team that developed and signed a separation proposal, said, “This is not a leaving, but a restructuring of the United Methodist Church through separation.”
The proposal, called A Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, envisions an amicable separation in which conservative churches forming a new denomination would keep their assets, including church properties. The new denomination also would receive $25 million.
The separation proposal has some high-level support, including from the Council of Bishops.
Formed by a merger in 1968, the United Methodist Church membership totals around 13 million worldwide, including 7 million in the U.S.