PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The United Methodist Church may be heading for a split.
The move is far from a done deal, but the topics of homosexuality and same-sex marriage are at the core of the divide as the denomination tries to satisfy diverging views.
There are 820 United Methodist Churches in Western Pennsylvania and some are adorned these days in rainbow colors to symbolize a welcoming of all.
Traditional Methodist churches believe those churches are crossing a line spelled out in the bible.
“In the Book of Romans, Paul speaks clearly in opposition to homosexuality,” the Rev. David Streets of the Ingomar UMC told KDKA back in February.
The Rev. Jeff Sterling of St. Paul’s UMC said this the same day.
“We believe the Bible has far more scriptures about welcoming people and including people,” he said. “And we have the example of Jesus, who didn’t deny anybody.”
Two pastors, two congregations, both United Methodist.
The topics have become so polarizing that the Bishop of the Western PA Conference of the UMC Cynthia Moore-Koikoi said some no longer want to be under the same Methodist umbrella.
“They just can’t see a way to make it work and so we respect that and honor that,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said.
Bishop Moore-Koikoi said the agreement to split the UMC announced last week is far from final.
“It means that a group of folks have recommended that, but it must be affirmed at the general conference in May,” Bishop Moore-Koikoi said.
But she and Pastor Sterling find solace in the fact those who reached the agreement came from all sides.
“It’s the people at the table that make me hopeful that this plan could work,” Sterling said.
If approved, the United Methodist Church could split into up to three denominations.
Moore-Koikoi said there could end up a traditional denomination that opposes same-sex unions, a progressive denomination that embraces it, and those in the middle.
“You might go into one local UMC and they are very progressive, one that is very centrist and one that is traditional, all living under that same united Methodist umbrella.
“A pastor has a right to decide who he or she will marry and a local church has the right to decide what activities will occur within their building,” Moore-Koikoi said.
Ultimately, churches and conferences will decide where they are most comfortable if the split occurs.
The denominations will decide whether to continue being a part of the UMC World Relief efforts.
The vote is in May.