The latest changes in same-sex marriage and equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community in Christianity came when the United Methodist Church announced the possibility for an “amicable separation” of the church on Jan. 3.

The church has struggled with members leaving the congregation due to the church’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy members, according to the New York Times.

There are two major churches, the Traditionalist United Methodist Church and the Centrist United Methodist Church, laid out in the plan with the possibility of having additional churches emerge out of the separation. The Traditionalist United Methodist Church would uphold the church’s current stance on LGBTQ marriage and clergy with an emphasis around the United Methodist Discipline.

The Centrist United Methodist Church would remove the prohibition of same-sex weddings, ordinations and appointments.

“It has to be straightened out somehow for us to get back on track,” Rev. Tom Barnard, pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Waverly, Iowa, said. “I personally like the idea of the Indianapolis Plan and the Protocol because it gives everyone a place.”

The Indianapolis Plan details a possible procedure for separation and will be discussed at the church’s General Conference in May 2020. Churches, clergy and ministerial candidates would decide which denomination to be a part of. Churches may choose which denomination via a majority vote by the congregation.

“My concern personally is that I have friends that are in all kinds of different places on these issues,” Rev. Rick Burns, pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church in Waverly, said. “If there’s a separation, split, new denomination or a handful of new denominations, friends that I’ve been in ministry with for years, friends that I love dearly, even though we disagree on some things, are no longer going to be my colleagues. We’re no longer going to be active in ministry together and that breaks my heart to think about it.”

In 2009, 37% of American adults were in support of same-sex
marriage. The number role to 62% in 2017. As of March 2019, 61% of American adults support samesex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center.

“I am personally conflicted over the split because I think it is sad that a church would have to split because of disagreement on the belief that people should be able to love who they love,” Halley Holm, Wartburg College Alliance secretary and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), said. “However, I think it is great that those who do not agree with the ruling of the church and care enough to go through with breaking away from their home church and forming a new, loving and inclusive church.”

Other Christian denominations, such as the ELCA, which Wartburg is a member, Presbyterian and Episcopal Churches previously voted on the issue.

The Presbyterian Church is the most recent denomination to allow same-sex marriage after voting in 2015. However, the United MethodistChurch’s global presence may have impacted the church’s decision, according to Dr. Caryn Riswold, McCoy family distinguished chair in Lutheran heritage & mission at Wartburg.

“The United Methodist Church is a global church, which means that the United Methodist Church is in countries all around the world,” Riswold said. “As divisive as the issue of same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy is in the United States, it is even more controversial in other parts of the world. There are countries where it is against the law to be gay, where you can be punished with jail, with fines, even with death. As controversial as it is in the United States, around the world it’s a lot more dramatic.”

For more information about the United Methodist Church, go to umc.org. The full version of the Indianapolis Plan can be found at newmethodism.wordpress.com.

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