Leaders of the United Methodist Church–the third largest Christian denomination in the United States–have announced a major schism. The church will divide into two new denominations in a split over LGBTQ inclusion.
Acceptance of queer people has long caused a rift within Methodism, with growing numbers of churchgoers supporting the ordination of gay clergy and performing of same-sex marriages. A heated conference last year failed to resolve the growing conflict, when a resolution to allow same-sex marriages and clergy was narrowly defeated in a final vote.
Now a group of 16 bishops has offered a plan to effectively split the church–and its funds–over a four year period. The divide will create two new denominations: a “traditionalist” group, which will still oppose any acceptance of queer people, and a more progressive branch, set to begin ordaining and marrying LGBTQ people.
“The potential seems strong that the separation proposal can end or at least greatly reduce the denomination’s decades-long struggle over how accepting to be of homosexuality,” the church said in a statement.
Though the plan has preliminary approval from church leadership, it will need to face a vote in a church conference this May. At present, the United Methodist Church is one of only a handful of non-evangelical protestant denominations to continue to oppose the acceptance of queer people.