Ed Stetzer Says All Denominations Could Learn From Proposed Split Within the United Methodist Church

The decision of the United Methodist Church to uphold biblical marriage at its 2019 general conference has led to a proposed split in the denomination. Associated Press file photo by Cristina M. Fletes. Used by permission.

An anticipated split within the United Methodist Church could prove educational for other religious denominations if conducted as proposed, noted Southern Baptist researcher Ed Stetzer at Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center told Baptist Press Monday (Jan. 6).

A coalition including worldwide UMC bishops and diverging advocacy groups has unanimously paved the way for the church to split into a new traditionalist Methodist denomination and other Methodist bodies, aimed at embracing varying views on gay marriage and gay ordination.

“If the new denomination takes its orthodoxy on mission, the new denomination may create new paths we all can learn from,” said Stetzer, the Billy Graham distinguished chair of church, mission and evangelism and dean of the School of Mission, Ministry and Leadership at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.

“Ironically, there are a lot of denominations today that wish they could have a fresh start — these orthodox Methodists will be creating a new evangelical denomination,” Stetzer said. “The progressives will get the denominational assets and name…. The new denomination will get the heart of evangelism and discipleship.” Although, Stetzer said, the new denomination could use a name other than UMC.

The Southern Baptist Convention has long upheld the existence of two genders, as qualified by Scripture, and biblical marriage between one man and one woman, teaching the union in its 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and passing resolutions to that effect at annual meetings. In 2019, messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., passed a resolution On Sexuality And Personal Identity, recommending “that Christians refrain from describing themselves or embracing a self-identity in ways that suggest affirmation of sinful desires or unbiblical social constructs,” and encouraging churches to “call sinners to repentance while ministering, encouraging, fostering hospitality, and extending Christlike love toward those brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction.”

The UMC group’s Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, announced Friday (Jan. 3), would allow churches to join a new traditionalist Methodist denomination opposing gay marriage and ordination, and potentially additional smaller Methodist denominations with varying views, all with initial funding from UMC assets, the UMC Council of Bishops said in a press release.

“The United Methodist Church and its members aspire to multiply the Methodist mission in the world by restructuring the Church through respectful and dignified separation,” the protocol reads. The 16-member mediation team plans to recommend the protocol be voted on at the United Methodist General Conference in May, addressing tensions that remain high after the 13-million-member church narrowly approved traditional rules on gay marriage and ordination in 2019.

Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and relinquish any further claim to UMC assets, the protocol reads. The UMC would allocate an additional $2 million for any other new Methodist denominations which emerge from the UMC.

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Source: Baptist Press