Key Methodist leaders in the Kansas City area say it will be business as usual for them when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, after an announcement on Friday that the United Methodist Church would split to allow a new, "traditionalist-minded" denomination for congregations who don't support same-sex marriage or allow LGBTQ clergy.
Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 22,000-member, five-campus Church of the Resurrection, said he predicts only a handful of churches in the Kansas City area will split off from the existing denomination.
“United Methodists are divided in how they read scripture on same-sex marriage,” Hamilton said. “But generally most of our people say it’s possible for us to see things differently and remain in one church. Church of the Resurrection has really tried to be a place that was welcoming and affirming for gay, lesbian people.”
The United Methodist Church is the United States’ third-largest religious denomination. The proposal, which would allow the new denomination to get $25 million in United Methodist funds and keep its local church properties, will require approval at the organization's general conference in May. Church leaders predicted it would be approved, writing in their announcement that "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."
Steve Breon, senior pastor of mid-sized Platte Woods United Methodist, said it may take a few years to see how things settle, but he supports the proposal as a good compromise to move forward.
“Many of us are centrists and we can work together across a wide range of opinions and beliefs,” Breon said.
Mark Holland, executive director of Mainstream UMC, an alliance group that has supported the separation, said the financial aspects of move are significant. Currently, if a congregation wanted to leave a Methodist church, its property would remain with the United Methodist Church.
“This agreement would allow any local church that wanted to leave to take their building with them and take their church property with them,” Holland said. “So that's a big part of this agreement. That's new.”
Holland said the issue has been contentious globally, but that congregations in the United States over the last few years have overwhelmingly supported moving in this direction.
“It’s going to acknowledge the diversity we’ve been living for our entire time,” Holland said. “It’s going to formalize the diversity that we’ve always known is present.”
Michelle Tyrene Johnson is a reporter at KCUR 89.3 and part of the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Kansas City, St. Louis, Hartford, Connecticut and Portland, Oregon. She can be contacted at email@example.com.