By Keith Boyette –
This year, The United Methodist Church is 52 years old. Of course, the Methodist movement, currently composed of approximately 80 distinct Methodist denominations worldwide, is much older than that. The UM Church was formed from the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968. Methodism, as with all parts of the Christian family, has experienced its share of divisions and reunions over its more than 225-year existence as a global movement.
For 48 of its 52 years, the UM Church has known ever-increasing levels of conflict regarding the authority and interpretation of the Bible, and the church’s doctrines and ethics. The presenting debate has focused on our sexual ethics, our definition of marriage, and our ordination standards. That debate has become more heated and polarizing with each passing year.
The thought of amicable separation was first discussed at a General Conference, the quadrennial legislative gathering for the UM Church, in 2004 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the 2012 and 2016 General Conferences, leaders of various constituencies in the church met to discuss whether it was time to separate. Each time, we opted for legislative conflict over dealing directly with our irreconcilable differences. In 2016, a diverse group of leaders asked the Council of Bishops to lead the UM Church toward separation. Instead, the Council of Bishops recommended the creation of a Commission on the Way Forward with a charge to find a way to maintain institutional unity despite deep and growing conflict. The General Conference ultimately authorized the Council of Bishops to create their proposed commission.
Read the rest of the article here.