Last week the United Methodist Church made headlines when it revealed a proposal by church leaders to split the church over the issue of LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings. At a contentious church general conference last year, the UMC voted to stick to its stance forbidding the ordination of LGBTQ clergy or the performance of same-sex weddings.
The Rev. Mark Thompson, the senior pastor of Lansing Central United Methodist Church, attended that conference. But, he said, he does not plan on attending this year’s conference, which will take place in May in Minneapolis, where the proposed split will be taken up.
“I am not going to attend the general conference because the results of the previous one broke my spirit,” said Thompson, who is openly gay. “I do not believe I can withstand much more pain caused by persons who are homophobic and have myopic vision.”
When asked his opinion on the proposal, which calls for a new traditionalist Methodist denomination to be spun off from the main United Methodist Church and given $25 million to regroup, Thompson was frank.
“The proposed protocol that would allow for a significant splinter group to leave the United Methodist Church is only one of many proposals going to the general conference this coming May,” he said. “This protocol that was created by an ad hoc group has some significant flaws. It might be good enough to pass through the process of legislation and be adopted. I grieve that significant funds will be given to the splinter group that is indeed homophobic and narrow-minded in its interpretation of scripture.”
The Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt Zundel, the senior pastor of Central United Methodist Church Detroit, agreed.
“This proposed split is just that, a proposal,” Zundel said. “However, what I don’t like in the proposal is that it gives $25 million dollars to start a new denomination that willfully harms LQBTQ siblings. That is unconscionable to me and would be to Christ as well.”
No matter the fate of the proposal, Zundel said, it’s time to resolve the issue for good.
“We continue to be in the fight for full inclusion and will not accept anything less.”
The Rev. Nancy Lynn, lead pastor of First United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor took a diplomatic approach when speaking on the issue of the split.
“If the question is how I feel about the proposed split, I would say I feel a mix of relief, grief and cautious optimism,” Lynn said. “Relief because if something like the protocol that has just been released is approved by our general conference in May, those of us who believe in full inclusion of the LGBTQ community will finally be free to be the church we believe God calls us to be. Grief because, like marriage, splitting up means you couldn’t find a way to live with your differences and there is a sense that, as followers of Christ, we should be able to do that. And cautious optimism because this seems to be the closest we’ve come to finding a way out of a conflict that has caused so much harm for so long. However, there are still a lot of unanswered questions and nothing will be definite until we see what happens in May.”