United Methodist Church, 3rd-largest denomination in U.S., announces plan to split over same-sex marriage, LGBT clergy

The United Methodist Church, the third-largest Protestant denomination and the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States, announced a plan Friday to split over irreconcilable divisions regarding same-sex marriage and LGBT issues including the ordination of LGBT clergy.

According to the Washington Post:

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.

Under the plan, which will have to be approved at the denomination’s worldwide conference in May, the “traditionalist” branch will receive $25 million from the central Methodist church to establish their new denomination. A significant number of traditionalist churches will be located in Africa, where the majority of Methodist congregations oppose same-sex marriage. There will be many in the United States as well.

The historic schism comes months after a protracted and contentious debate in the church over homosexuality, with numerous advocates lining up on either side. One group of activists last fall called for the church to be split into four separate denominations.

Last month a Methodist megachurch in Texas, specifically citing the ongoing and draining homosexuality debate, left the wider organization and joined a conservative denomination in that state.