Recently Read: The United Methodist Church is Split on Gays. But is Schism the Answer?

Sarah Stankorb at offers a exhaustive chronicle of the recent months actions and conversations suggesting schism in the United Methodist Church.

ChurchThe issue, as it had been for us at that youth conference in 1997 and as it has been within the United Methodist Church since the ’70s, was how the church would define its relationship with LGBTQ people. Methodism is a church bound by theology that stresses the universal availability of salvation and love for God and neighbor. It’s also a church defined by independent scriptural study and a massive organization of conferences that ordains ministers and tends to ecclesiastical business. Debate is built into the system, ideally creating a church that tolerates a variety of opinions.

The church’s founder, John Wesley, is often quoted as having said, “Though we may not think alike, may we not all love alike?” Within the church, the intellect is given certain liberties, but it’s love that binds. Yet as debate over homosexuality has intensified, a fight over which parts of Scripture are essential to the church has shifted from heady theological disputations to a battle over whether reason and the Bible tell Methodists to love or condemn gays (or both). And the final call continues to depend upon majority interpretation and, at conference, a majority vote. Furor over the question has increased so much in recent years that schism appears imminent.

Regardless of how the church might slice and dice globally, the split would also be deeply personal. As a lapsed Methodist myself, I know that every assembly of two Methodists is a committee with three opinions. Majority votes may speak for the church as defined at General Conference, but on each pew in any given church, votes will split. Congregations will split. If history offers any lessons—from the divide in the Methodist church over slavery or the Presbyterian and Episcopal church splits over ordination of gay clergy—a broken church is an acrimonious one.

Even if it could be done smoothly and traditionalist churches got a clean break, says the Rev. Gross, the day after schism a child will come out to his or her parents as gay in the new United Methodist Church that has very publically expressed contempt for LGBTQ people. “So what happens then?” he asks.

It seems somehow not enough to wait for a bunch of old ideas to die in order for a church to live. But Kubilus, echoing Wesley, reminded me of what makes Methodism special: “There are very serious things that we disagree on, but we still eat the same bread. We still drink from the same cup.” There is something radical about people coming together each week despite major differences of opinion and still calling one another brother and sister. Schism threatens that.


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7 Comments on "Recently Read: The United Methodist Church is Split on Gays. But is Schism the Answer?"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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I choose to love my gay friends and leave the judgement to God.

I had to decide whether I wanted to be affiliated with the Methodist church when a Methodist pastor filed a petition calling the Native American symbol on the Oklahoma Capital an offense. It told me that somewhere even though I attended a Methodist Indian church, it was not what it seemed. I opposed it and saw nothing of it. Just that the supreme court of the US turned it down. No where did I see the Methodist Conference stand up and say it was wrong and that it was not representative of the Methodist belief. I decided then it might… Read more »
Wes Andrews

How about the UMR presenting some well written articles about trusting in the authority of Scripture in regard to this issue rather than “reprint” an article of one who really isn’t connected by faith or through church commitment. UMR wouldn’t have to endorse the article.

Gary Bebop

UMReporter seems to be on a mission of hectoring and berating orthodox Methodists into submission. But I don’t see the profit in it. If anything, this distorted coverage is magnifying our divide because it’s not convincing.


I agree. UMR and other liberal organs accentuate the division and polarization by consistently presenting only one point of view and mischaracterizing the other…it makes those wanting to tell the truth even more resolute….the truth may be tardy, but it eventually arrives.

How could any rational person think that a liberal writer for a liberal magazine—a disaffected Methodist, no less, who no longer even claims to be Christian—is going to offer a fair presentation of the struggles in today’s United Methodist Church over homosexuality?? It’s sad to see yet another one-sided narrative, and it further solidifies the notion that the UM Reporter has little interest in fairness or accuracy. The article does provide some telling observations, if only by accident. The real reason liberals are opposed to schism is not directly addressed, but it is tangentially alluded to: traditionalists provide more financial… Read more »

“battle over whether reason and the Bible tell Methodists to love or condemn gays”
Really? I have tried to follow the dialogue and nowhere do I see anyone advocating that we condemn gay people. The argument is over the role that same sex partners can play within The UMC. It is a vicious argument and so far there seems to be no way through it. This article implies that the old guard has to die off and when the younger generation takes over all will be well.

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