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(RNS) — The United Methodist Church’s deadline for petitions for its next global meeting passed Wednesday (Sept. 18), setting the terms for a final reckoning with LGBTQ issues that have divided the denomination for more than 40 years.
The UMC’s General Conference 2020, to be held in May in Minneapolis, will consider the structure of what church leaders hope can be an amicable, and orderly, breakup of a worldwide church that is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The various plans come in response to a vote earlier this year by the church’s decision-making body to strengthen language barring LGBTQ United Methodists from ordination and marriage.
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That decision came in February at a special session of the General Conference that approved the conservative Traditional Plan, which centrists and progressives in the church have rejected and adamantly resisted. The resulting chaos has led some churches to withhold money from the denomination or to call for schism.
Bishops in areas that are growing within the denomination and widely seen as conservative, such as the Philippines and African countries, have urged unity in recent statements, even as moderates, most of whom are based in the United States, are optimistic about the prospect of formal separation.
Divorce - Life - Expressions - Church - Conflict
“It’s not a divorce. It’s giving life to expressions of the church that are now in conflict,” United Theological Seminary President Kent Millard told Religion News Service last month.
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Denomination - Text - Petitions - Meeting - Official
The denomination won’t release the full text of petitions that will be considered at the 2020 meeting until all have been translated into the four official languages of the meeting.
But all of the most likely proposals provide for dissenting congregations to exit the denomination, while in most cases retaining ties to United Methodist support organizations such as publishing houses.
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