United Methodist Church faces schism over same-sex marriage and gay clergy issues

The United Methodist Church is divided on the issue of homosexuality, and that division has led some pastors to believe that an official schism is approaching.

Last week, over 80 Methodist clergy—representing all five jurisdictions and more than 30 Annual Conferences—released a statement saying that the church is in the midst of major crises, and proposing that the denomination be split into Traditional and Progressive sects.

Citing crises of covenant, organizational discipline, inspiration of Scriptures, and discipleship, the pastors and theologians stated that debates over same-sex marriage and gay clergy have led to dissention in the church.

"It is time to recognize that traditionalists and progressives are pursuing divergent paths as we try to follow Christ and be faithful to what we understand to be the Gospel," they wrote.

"Though there are deeper issues that divide us, our differences, unfortunately, have now come to the fore around the subjects of marriage and human sexuality."

The Methodist leaders said that there is no middle ground or compromise that can be made between those who believe in biblical marriage, and those who include gay clergy and same-sex couples in the Body of Christ.

"Talk of a 'middle-way' or of 'agreeing to disagree' is comforting and sounds Christ-like. However, such language only denies the reality we need to admit. Neither side will find 'agreeing to disagree' acceptable," the pastors said.

For these leaders, the only acceptable answer is for the Methodist church to split.

"Are we not at a point where we can acknowledge, after years of dialogue and debate, the depth of our differences and together, progressives and traditionalists, give each other the freedom to pursue our understanding of God's will?" the clergy asked.

Some Methodist leaders said that the call for a schism is still premature.

"We are continuing to work for the unity of the church," Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, leader of the Wisconsin Annual Conference, told the Journal Sentinel. "I will be working very actively to continue to unite and wrestle with this issue honestly together."

Other pastors said that the discord over homosexuality has become more than just distracting.

"Tensions are reaching a point where it's become a destructive scenario," Trinity United Methodist Church Pastor Larry Baird told the Christian News Network.

"We're hoping there's a win-win way out for those in profound disagreement."