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Ohio Bishop Helps Author Proposal To Split United Methodist Church

The Rev. Gregory Palmer, west Ohio Bishop, speaks during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.
Sid Hastings
/
Associated Press
The Rev. Gregory Palmer, west Ohio Bishop, speaks during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo., Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

The United Methodist Church may split in two over LGBTQ issues. A new proposal co-authored by an Ohio bishop would allow for "traditionalist" Methodist churches, which don’t believe LGBTQ people should be married or ordained within the church, to spin off into their own denomination.

Bishop Gregory Palmer, head of the Worthington-based West Ohio Conference, says that at a general conference in May, delegates will consider multiple proposals for how to move forward “with less rancor and animus." Among the suggestions are one he co-authored.

“That pathway includes for a continuing United Methodist Church, and it allows a means for local congregations, for annual conferences, for groupings of persons to leave to go to another Methodist or Wesleyan denomination,” Palmer says.

Palmer points out the difference in opinion is far from new.

“This conversation has been sometimes at a slow boil, sometimes raging since 1972,” he says.

It came to a head last year at the 2019 United Methodist general conference, where a majority of delegates voted to maintain the status quo that does not allow for same-sex marriage or the ordination of LGBTQ ministers within the church.

Following the conference, several universities in Ohio voted to revaluate their affiliations with the United Methodist Church. Among the schools that suspended or sever ties were Ohio Wesleyan, Baldwin Wallace and Mount Union.

Palmer created his plan with 15 other church leaders across the ideological and geographic spectrum. He says bishops don’t vote, but he expects to remain with the United Methodist Church as it goes forward.

He’s quick to point out this is far from the first time the Methodist Church has undergone a split.

“Who we are as the United Methodist Church represents a series of unitings across more than almost the last century,” he says. “But some of those unitings, they were reuniting after fracture, over slavery, over participation of laypeople in the life of the church, over the role of bishops.”

Still, it's the first fissure in decades, and Palmer says that carries weight.

“It’s not necessarily the way that anybody sits in their congregation or their office, if they’re a pastor, and dreams, ‘Oh, I hope my church will have one of those.’ Of course you don’t. And I don’t," he says. "And I never would have dreamed that that would have been the case."