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United Methodist Church Proposes Split Over LGBTQ Issues

Lilly Knoepp
Members of Reconciling Ministries at the Western North Carolina Conference held a Pride March at Lake Junaluska in June.

The United Methodist Church has announced a proposal to split the church over LGBTQ issues. A committee of 16 announced the plan called the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.  The committe was made up of bishops and members of a range of international Methodist groups.


“It is always hurtful to me to separate in order to be The United Methodist Church,”  says Western North Carolina Conference Bishop Paul L. Leeland in a statement.  “This Protocol tries to offer a respectable path forward that treats others with grace and respect. The primary question for me is how do we glorify God and love others in our decisions?” 


The protocol outlines a plan to create a new conservative “traditionalist” Methodist denomination that would receive $25 million over the next four years.  It allocates $2 million for any new Methodist denominations.  


The plan also acknowledges the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, by putting aside $39 million to support ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.


The group asks that this protocol be considered at the 2020 General Conference instead of other solutions to the church's rules regarding the LGBTQ community. 


This move comes after the United Methodist Church passed what’s called the “Traditional Plan” at a special general conference meeting in February 2019. The plan fortified the church’s position that anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual can’t be ordained or married in the church by adding punitive measures to the Methodist Book of Discipline.


LGBTQ Methodists across the world organized against the decision and many local conferences voted in opposition of the new rules. 


In June, the Western North Carolina conference - which spans from Greensboro to the western tip of the state - voted progressive representatives into all 40 spots. They also approved a petition rejecting the Traditional Plan put together by a national group called UMC Next. 

The Reconciliation Protocol will need to be voted on and approved at the UMC General Conference in May in Minneapolis.  This conference will be a 10-day global event that will address a variety of topics including this proposal. The protocol will still be able to be amended at the conference. 

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.