United Methodist churches in Tennessee are sorting out the impact of a proposal to break up the denomination over LGBT rights.
More than 1,500 United Methodist churches are located in Tennessee, with more than 300,000 members. Nashville is also home to several administrative agencies and the United Methodist Publishing House.
The organization’s Council of Bishops announced a breakup agreement Friday that calls for creating a new denomination opposed to recognizing same-sex marriage and gay clergy. That denomination would get a share of the UMC’s assets, $25 million, while giving up future claims.
The agreement gives conferences of Methodist churches until the end of 2021 to vote on whether to join the new denomination. Individual churches would have three more years to decide whether to reaffiliate.
The agreement was written by a panel of Methodist clergy and lay members, chosen to represent the UMC’s traditionalist, centrist and progressive wings. The UMC will vote on ratifying the agreement at its next general conference in May.
The breakup plan was prompted by a split within the UMC over human sexuality. A plan to recognize same-sex marriages and LGBT ministers was defeated during a special session of the UMC’s governing body — with some of the strongest opposition coming from churches outside the United States.
Carol Cavin-Dillon, the senior pastor of West End United Methodist Church, says the decision upset many members of her Nashville church. Many have weighed the possibility leaving the denomination with other progressive congregations over the issue.
So she welcomes the agreement but also notes that, so far, it’s just a proposal.
“I think one of the primary misconceptions is that it’s already a done deal — that leaders announced, ‘This is happening,'” she says. “It was a group of leaders who announced this is our best and most prayerful thinking around this, and here’s what we propose. So now, it has to go for the decision-making process in May.”