LEAWOOD, Kan. — The United Methodist Church unveiled a plan Friday to divide the denomination over issues surrounding LGBTQ involvement and inclusion, a topic of fierce moral debate in the church.
Adam Hamilton, senior pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, spoke Friday about the proposal that would allow a conservative group of churches to split from the others to resolve the decades-long dispute. The plan envisions an amicable separation.
“Currently our Book of Discipline says that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. We will be removing that," Hamilton said.
"Currently we have prohibitions against ordination and against marriage," he continued. "We'd be removing that and allowing pastors to decide who they will marry, allowing local churches to decide whose weddings they'll host, and allowing annual conferences to decide who they will ordain.”
Last spring, the United Methodist Church voted in its worldwide conference to reject a proposal that would have reset the definition of sexual morality to include members of the LGBTQ community.
The proposal, which had support among United Methodist bishops in the United States, was voted down 449 to 374.
Instead, the Traditional Plan was upheld in April by the United Methodist Church’s judicial council. The plan largely upheld bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ pastors.
The decision was largely supported by members of the church in different countries, but many US church leaders and members, including several in Kansas City, sided with the other plan.
“We have over 100 United Methodist churches in Kansas City," Hamilton said. "I can only think of a couple of them that would leave."
Hamilton's congregation is the largest United Methodist church in the world with more than 22,000 members.
"But across the country, especially in the deep South, we're going to find a higher percentage of people in the deep South who are going to say we can't go there."
He added he believed 10-25% of churches within the denomination will leave.
At the time, Rev. Tom Lambrecht, general manager of the conservative Methodist magazine Good News, suggested that those wishing to change the rules to add LGBTQ inclusion measures start their own denomination.
However, the new plan suggests that those who agree with the Traditional Plan will start their own denomination, while those who support same-sex marriage and LGBTQ pastors will remain as the United Methodist Church, according to leaders at the Church of the Resurrection.
The church would “remove all language and policies from the ‘Book of Discipline’ that restrict LGBTQ persons in the church,’" according to the Church of the Resurrection. It would also allow pastors to determine who they will or will not marry.
However, the plan would also provide funding for those wanting to leave the United Methodist Church in order to help them get a new denomination started.
While Hamilton celebrates the decision, he also realizes it’s not a total victory.
“Many of them are my friends. They're people I care about," he said. "We've traveled together, we have shared in mission and ministry together. We love each other.
"We see much of the scripture the same way, but on this particular issue, we do not see things the same way. From my side, I was like, 'It's OK for us not to agree and for you to be in one place.' And for some of them they said, 'I can't stay in the church if that's where you're going.' So it's bittersweet. It's painful actually to have people leave.”
“I'm so ready for us not to be fighting about this all the time. I'm so ready for us not to have in our Book of Discipline words that harm people and for us instead to be a church that says you are welcome and loved in this place,” Hamilton said.
The plan wouldn’t go into effect until the General Conference in May, where members will vote on its passage.
Mainstream UMC, along with two other organizations, will host rallies in Topeka and Omaha this weekend. Learn more here.