United Methodist Church Undergoes Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Split

Politically speaking, the debate over same sex “marriage” in the United States has largely ended. In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States imposed same sex “marriage” on the entire nation in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644. In 2022, President Joe Biden signed the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, which codified and reinforced the Court’s Obergefell ruling. Currently, there is no realistic opportunity to change the law so that it once again reflects the authentic definition of marriage.

While the political battle over same sex “marriage” has receded into the background, conflicts over the issue are very much alive in America’s churches. For decades, The United Methodist Church (UMC) has grappled with questions about marriage and sexuality. Despite pressure from supporters of same-sex “marriage,” the UMC has maintained a traditional, opposite-sex definition of the institution; however, when dissenting bishops allowed same-sex ceremonies or ordained practicing homosexuals as clergy, the UMC failed to act.

In 2019, the UMC instituted a new procedure in which its churches would be allowed to disaffiliate from the denomination by the end of 2023 while still retaining their respective properties. According to the Associated Press, the disaffiliation process “was expected to be used by progressive congregations dissenting with the letter of the church law, and a handful did take the church up on its offer.” However, “the vast majority of departing congregations reflect conservative dismay over what they saw as the denomination’s failure to discipline those defying church law, as well as other liberal trends.” (There were other divisions within the denomination, including disagreements over the role and authority of bishops.)

As of December 2023, Christianity Today reports that 7,659 of more than 30,000 UMC churches in the United States—including 124 in New York–have opted to leave the denomination. This staggering total represents approximately one quarter of the U.S. churches in the denomination. In 2023 alone, 5,642 Methodist churches opted to depart the denomination. According to Christianity Today, the split in the Methodist Church is “the largest denominational divide in the United States since the Civil War.” Some of the churches that have left the UMC have opted to join the Global Methodist Church (GMC).

The GMC is a new Methodist denomination that launched in May 2022. It has since added more than 4,000 congregations from all 50 states. GMC plans to hold its first annual meeting in September. The transitional leadership has promised the GMC will maintain traditional Christian views of sexuality and limit the power of bishops in the new denomination.

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