United Methodist Church announces plan to split over gay marriage, LGBTQ clergy

The United Methodist Church is expected to split following an impasse over a persistent debate over same-sex marriage and LGBTQ inclusion.

Leaders of the nation's third-largest denomination said Friday that the United Methodist Church will begin allowing same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, while "traditionalist" Methodists, who oppose gay marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy, will create a separate denomination, The Washington Post reported.

The plan would need to be approved in May at the church's global conference, according to the paper.

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The United Methodist Church is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S. Many other Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church, allow same-sex marriages and appoint LGBTQ clergy.

Friday's announcement comes as sanctions were about to be put into place that would have severely punished Methodist ministers for presiding over same-sex marriages, with a yearlong ban without pay for the first marriage and then removal from the clergy for any subsequent marriage.

The agreement, which was facilitated by mediation expert Kenneth Feinberg, reportedly gives $25 million to the "traditional" denomination that will be formed. That group will include churches in the U.S. as well as most of the churches in Africa, the Post reported.

In return, the new denomination will drop all claims to any assets of the United Methodist Church, but they will reportedly be able to bring certain assets with them.

The agreement also earmarked $39 million “to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.”

Churches would need to vote if they wanted to join the new denomination, but not if they wanted to remain a part of the United Methodist Church.

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The remaining United Methodist churches will then hold a conference to remove the ban on same-sex marriages and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy. 

The denomination tried to resolve the matter at a conference in 2019, but ultimately voted for keeping the ban in place while introducing new punitive measures.

Updated at 8 p.m.