It seems that the recent debates focused on issues touching on sexuality and theology have been fueling divisiveness within the United Methodist Church, a Yahoo News report noted.
According to the article, the dominant Protestant denomination has joined the likes of Lutheran, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches in losing a big chunk of their churches. The losses seem to stem from disagreements about sexuality (such as the ordination of openly gay clergy and same-sex marriage) and theology governing the Methodist churches.
'An Imminent Schism'
The news outlet disclosed that the imminent schism within the church became apparent during the yearly regional convention of Methodist churches in the U.S.
During the event, the national leadership greenlit the request made by some 300 United Methodist Church members to break away from the Protestant denomination.
For example, several hundred Methodist churches have signified their intention of disaffiliating from the main church in the states of Texas and Georgia. Such would typically need the approval of the national leadership.
But for over 100 other Methodist churches in North Carolina and Florida, they do not need their request to break away to be formally approved, and some have even filed or hinted at filing a lawsuit to disaffiliate.
These potential breakaways are not all there is since several large congregations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia are heading out of the Methodist doors.
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As mentioned, the ongoing and potential disaffiliations by many Methodist churches across the country hinge on significant differences in how the denomination's member churches view and approach sexuality and theology matters.
These flashpoints include the Methodist leadership's bans on ordaining confessed gay clergy and allowing marriage between same-sex congregants. The liberal and conservative factions within the United Methodist Church are frequently at odds over such issues, prompting requests for disaffiliation and lawsuits.
In a separate report by the Associated Press, Bishop Thomas Bickerton has revealed the emergence of a breakaway denomination called the Global Methodist Church. The Methodist leader made the announcement at the end of their five-day meeting.
According to Bishop Bickerton, the Sunday launch of the breakaway group was 'sad and sobering.' Bickerton is the newly-minted President of the United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops, AP said.
"There is no perfect church. The constant fighting, the vitriolic rhetoric, the punitive behaviors have no place in how we preserve and promote our witness as Christian believers," AP quoted him saying.
Cynthia Fierro Harvey, whom Bickerton succeeded as Council of Bishops president, revealed in her April 25 sermon that the split was inevitable. Harvey said she thought it "might be time to bless and send our sisters and brothers who cannot remain under the big tent."
Rev. Keith Boyette, one of the leaders of the breakaway group, explained that the formal exit of churches from the Methodist congregation and into their group starts on Sunday's launch and would continue "over a considerable amount of time." He added the launch would serve as "a rolling celebration."
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