On Friday, the United Methodist Church announced that it will finally put an end to the denomination’s ongoing division over the acceptance of homosexuality in the culture, among members, and among its clergy, by formally splitting.
A new denomination for “traditionalist” churches who maintain a biblical view of marriage will be formed, according to the New York Times.
Back in February of 2019, the UMC General Conference voted against allowing homosexual marriage and clergy, but tension has been brewing within the denomination ever since.
According to The Washington Post, the decision to split will spare the denomination’s pro-LGBT churches from facing sanctions that were originally slated to take effect, including suspension or expulsion of clergy who officiate homosexual “weddings.”
Moving forward, local churches will remain members of the UMC and must conduct votes in order to join the new “traditional” sect.
The split, which awaits General Conference approval in May, was planned by a 16-person committee of bishops and other officials who deemed separation the “best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding.”
“The solution that we received is a welcome relief to the conflict we have been experiencing,” said pro-LGBT Rev. Thomas Berlin of the split. “I am very encouraged that the United Methodist Church found a way to offer a resolution to a long conflict.”
Conservative members of the denomination weren’t quite so excited, however.
“My initial reaction is that [it] should be the other way around: Let the heretics split off since they are the ones denying Jesus and the historic witness not only of the church in general but of Wesley and the denomination in particular,” theologian Robert Gagnon wrote. “It is their view that is a cancer on the church. Let the faithful occupy the default position.”
“This appears to be a win for the heretics; not a rout but a win nonetheless,” Gagnon continued. “It seems like the faithful had the heretics on the rope with greater sanctions on unfaithful pastors performing a faux ‘gay marriage’ and then they compromised with the heretics to give the latter a better deal. On the other hand, it may be the best deal that the faithful can get.”
In an editorial for The Resurgent, Steve Berman points out that the split is “pretty racist,” with lines being drawn predominantly between white progressivists in the West and black traditionalists in Africa:
The UMC “deal,” boils down to this: the American WASP UMC told their African brothers and sisters in Christ that these Africans don’t get to dictate policy to the WASPs. The African churches were started by western UMC missionaries, and the churches were successfully transitioned to growing, indigenous-led, healthy congregations. Now that the black-led African churches have held to Biblical values that American progressives reject, the lily-white Americans say the black Africans need to learn their place.
Berman also projects that, upon finalization of the split, the UMC will fade into irrelevance and apostasy much like the Episcopalians, the liberal Presbyterians (PCUSA), and others who have gone before it:
…We’ve been here before with other “mainline” Protestant denominations and we know how it will end. Those American churches that leave the UMC for whatever Biblical values they hold will maintain or even prosper, though they may lose many congregants who agree with the main church’s progressive worldview. The UMC, as a denomination, will quickly shrink and become like the Episcopal Church in America.
We know this because the Episcopal Church in America split from its Anglican brethren in Africa over the same issue of gay marriage. The Presbyterian Church also split, with the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) retaining a Biblical stance on same-sex marriage. The original PC (USA) church has continued to shrink.
While it is deeply regrettable that any professing church would so openly embrace what God plainly denounces as sin, one can’t help but remember that Lord often puts us, as individuals and in groups, through the fire in order to burn away the dross. Praise God for the continued purification of His bride!
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