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United Methodist Church to split in two

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You guessed the issue.

Quote

The United Methodist Church is expected to split into more than one denomination in an attempt to bring to a close a years-long and contentious fight over same-sex marriage.

The historic schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States.

Leaders of the church announced Friday they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist” denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy, while allowing the remaining portion of the United Methodist Church to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.

The plan would need to be approved in May at the denomination’s worldwide conference.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/01/03/united-methodist-church-is-expected-split-over-gay-marriage-disagreement-fracturing-nations-third-largest-denomination/

My wife is a practicing Methodist and I have a few friends that are fairly active in the church, so I've been casually following this story for a long time now. They're the last big mainline Protestant US denomination to make a decision and they've really been duking it out for the last couple years. Most (but certainly not all) of the US members favor going ahead and performing LGBT weddings, etc, but there's a big contingent from outside the US that is more conservative. Things came to a head at the last general meeting when the conservatives not only defeated proposals to be more inclusive, but managed to pass stronger penalties for any clergy that performed gay weddings.

The deets on the split:

  • new "traditionalist" church will split off, getting a $25mm lump sump and giving up claim to church buildings, etc
  • congregations that want to go with the traditionalists will have to vote on it
  • congregations that want to stay won't have to do anything
  • remaining church (still called UMC) expected to vote to allow gay weddings, gay clergy, etc once split is complete

Purposefully posted here and not CR, btw.

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Previous American protestant church splits have been over issues like slavery (southern churches supported it and split off from northern churches), and the ordination of women.  Now, it's ordination and/or marriage of thuh gayz (side note -- generally, it's not even REQUIRED...it's typically just allowed, if a particular congregation wants to do so).

I gotta hand it to some congregations -- they are truly dedicated to being on the wrong side of things.  Sigh.

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8 minutes ago, SimonBolivar said:

I have a couple of UMCs as clients. I'm going to guess they vote to leave.

Will be interesting to me to see what percentage of US congregations stay versus leave. My guess that a lot of the folks that would have stayed under this agreement have already trickled away over the last several years and won't come back in droves.

The two churches that my wife occasionally drags me to aren't exactly filled with fire-and-brimstone types (I mean, they're Methodists), but they do skew older (again, Methodists). My sense is that they're the kind of congregations that have mostly just whistled past the graveyard on this deal so far but now they'll be forced to take a stand. I assume that in their hearts they'd fall more on the conservative side, but inertia is a powerful force as well.

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13 minutes ago, Pato del Muerto said:

Kinda disingenuous to keep United in the name, but I guess what remains is united. 

Well the United was placed in the name to acknowledge the United Brethren that Methodists had merged with, so it makes sense to keep it because presumably some of the Brethern line will be staying with them.   

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I thought the "traditionalists" were the majority vote world-wide. Why are they the ones "splitting off." Seems it would be the other way around.

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3 minutes ago, 'stache said:

I thought the "traditionalists" were the majority vote world-wide. Why are they the ones "splitting off." Seems it would be the other way around.

That was strange to me too.

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38 minutes ago, Pato del Muerto said:

Kinda disingenuous to keep United in the name, but I guess what remains is united. 

For the record, the "United" came from the Evangelical United Brethren, which was a majority portion of what is now United Brethren in Christ.  The former merged with The Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church.

Ain't nothin united nowhere.

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, 'stache said:

I thought the "traditionalists" were the majority vote world-wide. Why are they the ones "splitting off." Seems it would be the other way around.

 

8 minutes ago, txhorns said:

That was strange to me too.

Well Great Britain was a pretty severe minority of the British Empire, but because that's where it started, they went ahead and kept the name.

Same deal here. The UMC was started in Dallas. Now that it spread far and wide the American portion is a minority. But they're still gonna go ahead and keep the name.

Edited by Huckleberry

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In exchange, Friday’s announcement said, the new denomination would drop any claim to United Methodist assets, such as church buildings

 

So, how is it going to work if a local American church decides to be a traditionalist and then doesn't want to leave the property? Do they get a chance to buy it?

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One of my proudest moments in life was back in college or law school when I was visiting my parents' Sunday School class (which they attended for more than 50 years).  As my Mom frequently said, "there are quite a few baptists in the Methodist Church,"  and by that she meant of the hardshell variety.

In any event, one of the more hardshell members of their class (a 20-year member, so a relative newcomer), started making some announcement about some fundamentalist issue like gays in the church.  My Dad, who could be an inappropriate asshole quite often, told Tom to shut up about that, that's not what we're here for.  My Dad would have been 98 this year and probably harbored some bigotry or prejudice, personally, but by gosh and by golly he would not tolerate it spoken aloud or acted on openly.  The n-word was worse than an f-bomb in my house growing up.

Hell, at that time, which was probably 25 years ago, I wasn't as open to gay rights and whatnot as I am now, but I was mighty proud of Dad for being an asshole (sort of) that one time.  And, I think the large majority of the Sunday School class, also a bunch of old farts, agreed more with Dad than with Tom McMillan.

People surprise you sometimes, and sometimes for the better.

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That seems like a pretty fucked deal for the traditionalists. It’s not really a split, they’re just being tossed out on their asses. Not that I give a shit, but it would seem like each congregation should vote and the winner gets the church.

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Posted (edited)

I'm not sure "church property" includes the local physical plant in all instances.

Also, the recent vote against LGBT inclusion was a 53% majority, so not overwhelming and I think the powers that be know where it's headed.

Edited by TwiceHorn

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9 minutes ago, TwiceHorn said:

I'm not sure "church property" includes the local physical plant in all instances.

Also, the recent vote against LGBT inclusion was a 53% minority.

Was that vote just the US or worldwide?

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, cactusflinthead said:

Was that vote just the US or worldwide?

It included conferences worldwide.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/united-methodist-lgbt-vote-conference-plan.html

Quote

But the growing global presence among the 12 million-member denomination held more sway. Methodists from outside the US, who favor more traditional positions on sexuality, made up 41 percent of the general conference’s 864 delegates. A full 30 percent were from Africa.

It would have gone pro-LGBT if America only, most likely.  Which is why you are seeing minority rule here.  Those Africans are seriously homophobic.

 

It has been kind of sad, one local UMC church, Northhaven, which has been a favorite of Perkins School of Theology profs for decades and was recently pastored by Longhorn Eric Folkerth, has a rainbow banner over the "United Methodist" in their sign on Preston Road.

Edited by TwiceHorn

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1 hour ago, DaysOff said:

We quit going to church over this issue. If they're going to treat other humans as second class citizens then they're not very Christian. Best part for me is they don't get anymore of my money. Guess we'll see if the local aggys want to call for a vote.

I find this odd. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you had to know the historic, orthodox position of Christianity on this issue. If it’s what drove you to quit going to church, it’s strange that you were there in the first place.

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1 hour ago, DaysOff said:

We quit going to church over this issue. If they're going to treat other humans as second class citizens then they're not very Christian. Best part for me is they don't get anymore of my money. Guess we'll see if the local aggys want to call for a vote.

Just curious, but does this decision do anything to get you to consider returning?

1 hour ago, cactusflinthead said:

In exchange, Friday’s announcement said, the new denomination would drop any claim to United Methodist assets, such as church buildings

 

So, how is it going to work if a local American church decides to be a traditionalist and then doesn't want to leave the property? Do they get a chance to buy it?

The articles I've seen are a little vague, but I understood "church buildings" in your quote to mean administration buildings, etc owned by the national organization. I'm pretty sure that if and when individual congregations vote to leave, they will take their building/land with them. The $25m that the remaining church will pay to the leavers will go towards property that can't be split up.

56 minutes ago, NeverMarryAStripper said:

That seems like a pretty fucked deal for the traditionalists. It’s not really a split, they’re just being tossed out on their asses. Not that I give a shit, but it would seem like each congregation should vote and the winner gets the church.

I believe that will be the case, see above.

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We attend a large UMC church in RR. It's the kind of place that's grown up with the community it serves. From a 1 room building in the 60s and 70s to a large campus with multiple buildings, and we continue to purchase neighborhood real estate as it becomes available. Our church actually trends younger than average, largely because the area is growing with young families and because the preschool is highly regarded. Our long time pastor retired early two years ago because he saw this coming and didn't want to be a part of the split. Today our senior pastor is Gen X, our Sr associate pastor is a woman, and our Jr associate pastor is very obviously if not openly gay. I imagine we will stay UMC, but there are enough olds in the lay leadership that might try to bring it to a vote. I can't imagine a "leave" vote would pass, but if it did we would be done. 

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54 minutes ago, tokamak said:

Just curious, but does this decision do anything to get you to consider returning?

The articles I've seen are a little vague, but I understood "church buildings" in your quote to mean administration buildings, etc owned by the national organization. I'm pretty sure that if and when individual congregations vote to leave, they will take their building/land with them. The $25m that the remaining church will pay to the leavers will go towards property that can't be split up.

I believe that will be the case, see above.

If it's not crystal clear on who gets what they're going to have problems. I could very easily imagine a scenario where one voting bloc moves into a church with the goal of taking it one way or the other. 

25 million seems really low. 

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1 hour ago, formermav43 said:

I find this odd. Regardless of your personal beliefs, you had to know the historic, orthodox position of Christianity on this issue. If it’s what drove you to quit going to church, it’s strange that you were there in the first place.

Historically churches change their views or stances frequently. Presumably some parishioners get to the new view before the church does.

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, cactusflinthead said:

If it's not crystal clear on who gets what they're going to have problems. I could very easily imagine a scenario where one voting bloc moves into a church with the goal of taking it one way or the other. 

25 million seems really low. 

Maybe that could be a problem in other parts of the world. But if they have an agreement that all currently owned churches are to remain the property of the UMC, then the local folks can't just say no. They'd just be trespassing at that point. I'd assume most countries have similar laws regarding ownership as well. 

Edited by SquishMitten

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1 minute ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

Historically churches change their views or stances frequently. Presumably some parishioners get to the new view before the church does.

No!  Faith can never evolve!  Personally, that's why I am planning to go full-Abraham and climb a mountain to sacrifice my son.  Human sacrifice -- it's in the Bible! You can look it up!

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Just now, SquishMitten said:

Maybe that could be a problem in other parts of the world. But if they have an agreement that all US-based churches are to remain the property of the UMC, then the local folks can't just say no. They'd just be trespassing at that point. I'd assume most countries have similar laws regarding ownership as well. 

The law on ownership of church property is not uniform in the U.S.  Property laws are almost entirely a creature of state law, which in turn interprets/depends upon the actual documentation and ownership arrangements already in place.  So, in one state, the denomination might own the property, in another, the local congregation owns the property.  It helps if the denomination has a uniform approach that is documented in a way that establishes ownership in the denomination in every state.  Otherwise, it can get complicated as hell (there's literally books written on the subject).

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1 minute ago, Brisketexan said:

The law on ownership of church property is not uniform in the U.S.  Property laws are almost entirely a creature of state law, which in turn interprets/depends upon the actual documentation and ownership arrangements already in place.  So, in one state, the denomination might own the property, in another, the local congregation owns the property.  It helps if the denomination has a uniform approach that is documented in a way that establishes ownership in the denomination in every state.  Otherwise, it can get complicated as hell (there's literally books written on the subject).

Completely agree. Guess I wasn't clear. My point was that the churches currently owned by the UMC itself would be bound by the agreement. I didn't interpret anything in the outline of the agreement as implying the parent organization was suddenly claiming ownership of property it never had an interest in before. 

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15 minutes ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

Historically churches change their views or stances frequently. Presumably some parishioners get to the new view before the church does.

I’m not disputing that stances can change (though I wouldn’t describe it as occurring “frequently,” but I suppose that’s relative). But we’re not talking about an issue that was historically contentious-there’s 2,000 years of consensus, and only recently has that eroded.

I’m not debating the issue itself either way or denying that doctrines can evolve, but that, personally, I find bizarre that someone would feel strongly enough about an issue to leave the church over it when it’s the historic view of the church and was when he became a Christian. 

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We've stopped going to our local UMC over the last vote and will return when this is through. Individual churches previously had more discretion. We went to one in north Austin that had a rainbow flag and a lady pastor with a rainbow stole for a while.

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3 minutes ago, formermav43 said:

I’m not disputing that stances can change (though I wouldn’t describe it as occurring “frequently,” but I suppose that’s relative). But we’re not talking about an issue that was historically contentious-there’s 2,000 years of consensus, and only recently has that eroded.

I’m not debating the issue itself either way or denying that doctrines can evolve, but that, personally, I find bizarre that someone would feel strongly enough about an issue to leave the church over it when it’s the historic view of the church and was when he became a Christian. 

The views of people can change over time, and then they realize their church was/is wrong. Does that not make sense?

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7 minutes ago, Nice Guy Eddie said:

The views of people can change over time, and then they realize their church was/is wrong. Does that not make sense?

Sure. But that’s not quite the way I read that post (and perhaps I’m at fault for misinterpreting it). It’s a matter of your beliefs changing, which is perfectly understandable, vs. getting angry with the church for believing what it always has, which is a phenomenon that is becoming more prevalent and isn’t as understandable to me. I read it as frustration with the church as if they somehow believed something novel rather than attributing it to a changed opinion by him, and maybe that’s my mistake.

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2 hours ago, TwiceHorn said:

It included conferences worldwide.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/united-methodist-lgbt-vote-conference-plan.html

It would have gone pro-LGBT if America only, most likely.  Which is why you are seeing minority rule here.  Those Africans are seriously homophobic.

 

It has been kind of sad, one local UMC church, Northhaven, which has been a favorite of Perkins School of Theology profs for decades and was recently pastored by Longhorn Eric Folkerth, has a rainbow banner over the "United Methodist" in their sign on Preston Road.

Well that was gross

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27 minutes ago, skittlebrau said:

We've stopped going to our local UMC over the last vote and will return when this is through. Individual churches previously had more discretion. We went to one in north Austin that had a rainbow flag and a lady pastor with a rainbow stole for a while.

St Johns?  FANTASTIC church, and their pastor is AMAZING. Seriously, she's brilliant.  And she's also one of my wife's dearest and best friends.  And also, I have a little bit of a crush on her, that everyone knows about.  I admire smart and capable women.

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Posted (edited)

Yep. That was the one. We had a good experience, but It's been quite a while since we lived in that part of town. Never officially became members. Cool to hear.

 

Which makes me think, what would a place like that do if there wasn't a split? Ignore the new rules?

Edited by skittlebrau

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I think I was "confirmed" or whatever it's called in the UMC in junior high school.  My parents had divorced so we no longer went to my father's family's Lutheran Church.  I know I ended up in UMC youth group for three years in high school, but I think I did something official with them in junior high.  What's that called in UMC, not conformation or first communion?  Something else.  Anyway, we had a female pastor and a youth minister who I'm pretty sure was gay even back then.  But I enjoyed my time there from what I remember.  A helluva difference from what my wife went through in Catholic upbringing. Kudos the UMC for taking these first important steps to live in Christ's light.  

  If the Roman Catholic Church didn't split over "for kid fucking/against kid fucking", I doubt the gay debate is gonna move the needle one iota...at least in the next 10-20 years.  They kept the whole church and the entire fundraising mechanism in pristine condition after they admitted to facilitating face rape of small children, that's how you lead an organization gentlemen!  /tedtalk

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6 minutes ago, skittlebrau said:

Yep. That was the one. We had a good experience, but It's been quite a while since we lived in that part of town. Never officially became members. Cool to hear.

 

Which makes me think, what would a place like that do if there wasn't a split? Ignore the new rules?

A lot of congregations have been doing just that -- going about their business and generally practicing in a way that reflects the faith and conscience of that congregation's membership.

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1 minute ago, Brisketexan said:

A lot of congregations have been doing just that -- going about their business and generally practicing in a way that reflects the faith and conscience of that congregation's membership.

Sure. But that was before last year.

 

At a conference last year where church leaders had declared they would solve this issue, many American delegates favored a plan that would have allowed local churches to make their own decisions on whether to perform same-sex marriages and ordain gay clergy. Some supported a plan to simply allow same-sex marriages worldwide. They were stunned when a third option passed, instead — one dubbed the “Traditional Plan,” which ushered in not only a continued ban on LGBT weddings and clergy, but also harsher penalties for those who disobey church doctrine.

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2 minutes ago, skittlebrau said:

Sure. But that was before last year.

 

 

 

Oh, I'm aware of what the decree was.  I'm telling you that a crapload of congregations have openly defied it.  Thus, the crisis/schism.

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The conservative offshoots (or whatever they’re going to call themselves) are going to be basically Baptist Lite.  They’ll be irrelevant in 10 years and be gone in 20.

The American churches are prolly about 70/30 pro gay.  (The 30 are in mostly rural areas.)

Agreed that this was the best possible outcome considering where they were a year ago.

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Posted (edited)
16 minutes ago, Aqua Buddha said:

The conservative offshoots (or whatever they’re going to call themselves) are going to be basically Baptist Lite.  They’ll be irrelevant in 10 years and be gone in 20.

The American churches are prolly about 70/30 pro gay.  (The 30 are in mostly rural areas.)

Agreed that this was the best possible outcome considering where they were a year ago.

I dunno. The Presbyterians have had a series of similar minor schisms and the offshoots are relatively flourishing. As said upthread people are surprising. In bad ways too. 

Edited by TwiceHorn

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