A group of United Methodists is asking bishops to allow church congregations to split from the main organization rather than wait for a formal process at the General Conference.
"As the writer of Ecclesiastes notes, 'For everything, there is a season,' and the season for waiting on General Conference legislative solutions as the only way forward has passed," says an open letter, titled "A Call to Grace."
The United Methodist Church has twice postponed its General Conference meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's currently scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 6, 2022, in Minneapolis.
"We call bishops and annual conferences to use existing disciplinary authority to find grace-filled ways for these leaders and churches to follow their call now, allowing them to take their church property with them where appropriate," the letter says.
More than 250 United Methodists have signed the letter in support, Churchleaders.com reports.
"We hope the bishops receive this in the spirit which it is meant," said George Howard, one of the letter's initial signers and a General Conference delegate from West Ohio.
While the General Conference is slated for next year, the Council of Bishops recently met for its fall meeting.
"This letter calls us to take a breath, to calm our minds and spirit and respond with grace in ways that will advance the kingdom of God," said Council of Bishops President Cynthia Fierro Harvey.
Many church congregants believe that a peaceful denominational separation will resolve some of the divisiveness within the UMC, most notably on the topic of LGBTQ issues.
Under one plan submitted to the General Conference is the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation. The protocol would allow traditionalist churches and conferences to leave with church property and $25 million to set up a new denomination. Another $2 million has also been earmarked for other groups of churches that may want to split from the church.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association is working on developing a new traditionalist denomination, the Global Methodist Church, while a group of progressive United Methodists is working to create a new denomination called the Liberation Methodist Connexion.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.