United Methodist Church proposes historic split over gay marriage and LGBT clergy

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United Methodist Church leaders are proposing a split into more than one denomination in a bid to resolve years of debate over LGBT clergy and same-sex weddings, according to the church’s official news agency.

The proposal, from a 16-member group of bishops and church leaders, says a separation was “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.”

The restructuring comes after a contentious General Conference of the second-largest Protestant denomination in the US voted last year to reinforce the church’s stance against ordaining gay clergy and performing same-sex weddings.

New York Conference Bishop Thomas Bickerton, part of the group behind the proposal, told the official United Methodist News Service that heated debate at the conference demonstrated “the line in the sand had turned into a canyon.”

“The impasse is such that we have come to the realization that we just can’t stay that way any longer,” he said.

At the St. Louis conference in February, the denomination decided that United Methodist churches and clergy could face removal if they did not affirm its stance against gay marriage and non-celibate LGBT clergy by 2021.

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