Home Christian News What Happened to United Methodists’ Proposal To Split the Denomination?

What Happened to United Methodists’ Proposal To Split the Denomination?

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LGBTQ advocates react to the Traditional Plan being adopted at the special session of the UMC General Conference on Feb. 26, 2019, in St. Louis. RNS photo by Kit Doyle

(RNS) — It was the thing that was supposed to save the United Methodist Church.

The Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, brokered by 16 United Methodist bishops and advocacy group leaders from across theological divides, outlined a plan to split the mainline Protestant denomination over its disagreement about the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.

But before delegates to the General Conference, the denomination’s global decision-making body, could vote on the widely endorsed protocol, so-called traditionalists went ahead and launched a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church.

And, most recently, several representatives of groups identifying as centrist and progressive announced they no longer supported the protocol.

While legislation to enact the plan still likely will be considered at the next General Conference meeting, wavering support for the protocol leaves the United Methodist Church either imagining a new way forward or plunging into chaos, depending on whom you ask.

So what happened?

RELATED: Why schism? United Methodist leaders explain proposal to split the denomination

Mainly, bishops and advocacy group leaders say, too much time went by. Because of COVID-related delays to the General Conference meeting, four years will have passed by the time delegates finally can vote on the plan they negotiated.

“There’s a lot that’s happened since that protocol was signed, and the context really has changed,” said Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York Annual Conference, who recently became president of the denomination’s Council of Bishops.

“We’re sad about these departures that are happening, but to think that the protocol is going to be the great solution, I don’t know that it will, because it’s in the hands of these delegates who are going to amend it and change it and make it what they want.”

New Council of Bishops President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, left, receives the gavel from outgoing President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey during the spring meeting, Friday, April 29, 2022. Video screen grab via COB