The United Methodist Church (UMC) would be meeting this week to likely split over differences in beliefs on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ pastors, but due to the coronavirus the conference has been postponed.
The 2020 General Conference was set to start this past Tuesday (May 5) through May 15 in Minneapolis, but bishops have proposed to postpone it until August 31 to September 10 of next year, according to the Associated Press.
At the conference, the church was reportedly planning on splitting the denomination because of “fundamental differences” over LGBTQ beliefs. The church announced the plan for a split in January, but the protocol has to be approved at the conference to go into effect.
While the differences between each side, which include whether the church should oppose same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ pastors, are severe, both sides agree that right now, they do not take priority.
“The people who are really in trauma right now cannot pay the price of our differences,” said Kenneth Carter, the president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops. “What is in our minds and hearts is responding to death, illness, grief, loss of work.”
Rev. Tom Berlin of Virginia, a supporter of LGBTQ inclusion in the church, says the debate “is on the back burner for now.”
“Once we get out of this, we’ll get back to the future of the UMC,” he said. “But now, churches of al varieties are working to respond to this pandemic in positive ways.”
The split of the UMC was prompted in February of last year when, at a conference in St. Louis, the church’s judicial council voted to uphold the “Traditional Plan” by a vote of 438 to 384. The Traditional Plan upholds the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay pastors.