WASHINGTON — The third-largest religious denomination in America could soon choose to split up.
Sixteen pastors, bishops, and laity of the United Methodist Church (UMC) agreed to put together a proposal to possible divide the church after coming to an impasse as to how the religious organization should treat its LGBTQ members.
The debate over the role of the LGBTQ community in the United Methodist Church has been debated for years. In 2019, the topic divided Methodists when several proposals at the UMC General Conference in St. Louis offered differing plans on whether the church should ordain gay clergy or perform same-sex weddings.
The latest proposal to potentially split up the church comes from a panel of religious leaders with diverse geographic and social backgrounds. It is expected to be voted on by members of the church at the UMC General Conference in Minneapolis in May.
TC Morrow, a commissioned provisional deacon at Foundry UMC in D.C., has been watching developments over the issue closely.
Morrow, a married lesbian, had to fight for years to take part in the ordination process in the church. She was also in St. Louis when the church ultimately voted to approve a "traditional plan" that dictated UMC would not ordain members of the LGBTQ community or perform same-sex weddings.
She said news of the proposal to potentially split the church up is bittersweet.
"My first reaction is one of heartbreak that it's come to this," Morrow said. "But, also knowing that the realities of differences and divisions were really on show after the St. Louis conference."
Morrow said she knows the vote could possibly result in more freedoms for LGBTQ Methodists, but she said was also concerned for LGBTQ church members who may be left to worship in more conservative parts of the church after a potential split.
"There will be kids just like me in churches, regardless of what the theologies are, and they're going to need to be supported," she said.
The proposal to split the church is called the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace through Separation".
If the church were to agree to the protocol, $25 million would be paid by the church's General Council on Finance and Administration to the traditionalist Methodist denomination that results from the split.
Additional denominations that are created by the split could also stand to collect $2 million respectively, according to the protocol.
Morrow said she believes the protocol could be approved by UMC members in May.
"I think out of all of them, this (proposal) seems like it most likely would be the one to gain enough support from a diversity of people in order to pass," she said,.
According to the United Methodist Church, there are 470,000 professing UMC members in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.