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Local Pastors React to Proposals for Possible Split of United Methodist Church

Sunday, January 12, 2020 @ 12:01 AM

Posted by Aly Delp

Clarion United Methodist Church UMC-winterCLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – A new proposal which would allow members who stand against gay marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy to form a new denomination has caused another controversy in the United Methodist Church organization.

The most recent proposal, a nine-page Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, recommended by a group of United Methodist bishops and other leaders, is just one of many that will be offered at the upcoming 2020 General Conference, in May. spoke to local Methodist pastors about the proposed changes and how they might affect our local congregations.

“There are already several proposals that have been submitted,” Pastor John Flower, of the First United Methodist Church of Clarion, said.

“My position is it’s really to early to tell, and we’re kind of in a wait and see period. My understanding is, even if (the most recent proposal) were to pass, the way it is written, it would take a least a couple of years to work through any changes.”

The changes most recently proposed include a restructuring of the remaining global United Methodist Church into regions, with flexibility to adapt church policies, including on LGBTQ inclusion, an issue that has become a hot topic within some segments of the church.

It would also allow for “traditionalists” to form a new denomination to continue what they see as Bible-supported restrictions on same-sex marriage and ordination of gay persons as clergy.

According to Pastor Flower, the issue is one that has come up in discussion in the Clarion County area.

“Our congregation is somewhat diverse, and we have persons in our congregation with various perspectives,” he noted.

“The one thing we all have in common is the worship Jesus Christ and trying to follow teachings in our daily lives. My hope would be that continues to be our main perspective, that God is the God of all people, and desires a relationship with all people.”

Pastor Wade Berkey, of the Franklin First United Methodist Church, noted there is a lot of confusion within the church over the issue and the many proposals being put forward.

“Nobody really knows what to expect. It’s a difficult time in the United Methodist Church,” Berkey said.

Berkey noted the proposals could lead to changes in churches in our area.

“What I’ve learned about people in western Pennsylvania is they hold a lot of traditional values, and so, with that said, I’m not sure which way they would go, but I do know most folks in western Pennsylvania hold to those traditional values.”

“(The most recent proposal) is just one of many considerations the United Methodist Church will be looking at come May and the General Conference,” Pastor Paul Ritchey of the Punxsy First United Methodist Church said.

Those participating in the General Conference will be the ones who will have to make the main decision, Pastor Ritchey noted.

Pastor Dennis Johnson, of the Brookville First United Methodist Church, said there was no issue for his church until after May.

“We will have to wait until the issue defined and we can deal with it then.”

They will be sending representatives to the General Conference to vote on the proposals, according to Pastor Johnson.

Nevertheless, he didn’t have much insight on how local representatives may vote on the issue.

“It isn’t a huge issue in this area. At least, I haven’t encountered it as a big issue.”

Johnson noted that while people may have strong opinions on the issue one way or the other, it will all come down to what decisions are made at the General Conference.

“It’s only if changes are being made that people will have to consider the options, whatever they are,” he added.

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