United Methodist Church Divorces Itself Over Same-Sex Marriage
For years, the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America and the third largest in the world, has been arguing about the role of LGBT people in its church. This week, that argument has been settled as they have officially decide to split the church into two separate denominations: One that accepts gay people, performs same-sex weddings, and permits LGBT clergy, and another, for the homophobes.
Last year, they held a conference to decide what to do about same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Should they allow them? Should they let individual churches decide which way they they wanted to go? They had a vote, and to the surprise of many, the plan that eventually won out was one that would not only ban both same-sex marriage and LGBT ordination, but also would institute harsh penalties on churches and clergy that refused to go along and be bigots with them. While the "traditionalists" in the church were very happy about this, many others were not. And who can blame them?
While evangelical and fundamentalist denominations tend to be firmly anti-LGBT, mainline Protestant sects are often more liberal in that regard. In fact, the UMC was one of the only mainline denominations that did not have same-sex marriages or LGBTQ clergy. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are all fine with those things and have been for quite some time.
Part of the reason the church has remained so anti-LGBT is because they have churches worldwide and in a lot of areas where people are more hostile to gay people. The representatives who helped push the new statute through were largely from Russia and Africa.
The penalties for not being crappy to gay people were set to go into motion this week, but on Friday, after much deliberation and mediation, the church decided to split from itself.
Now the normal Methodists will be in the United Methodist Church and the "Straight Methodists Only!" people will have their own special "Traditionalist" church, to be officially named later. Those churches will continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to pretend that none of their clergy is gay. This is obviously very good news for LGBT Methodists who would prefer to belong to a club that would actually want them as a member.
According to those who devised the plan, it is:
"the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person."
That seems like a really nice and churchy way of putting "it was just easier to let the homophobes go."
The Traditionalist Methodists, as per the agreement, will get $25 million to leave but will be required to forfeit any claims to the assets of the United Methodist Church, including buildings. So if they want to be bigots, they can vote to do so, but then they not only have to leave, but they also have to build all new churches to be homophobic in. $2 million more will be allocated to churches who wish to split off into their own denominations for whatever other reasons they may have.
Additionally, $39 million was allocated "to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism," which is way more than the homophobes are getting.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse