The United Methodist Church—a denomination with more than 13 million members—may soon split.  

This afternoon, the United Methodist Council of Bishops released a statement announcing that a “diverse group of representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops from around the world has collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of all the parties involved.”

As the council explains, “The action comes amid heightened tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference failed to resolve differences among church members.”

At the core of the proposed split are differing views on gay marriage. The plan is expected to be approved when the denomination meets in May at its global conference.

The church leaders have agreed on a new plan for a “traditional Methodist” denomination to split off from the UMC. The traditional denomination would oppose same-sex marriage and not allow for the ordination of LGBTQ ministers. The UMC, however, would allow same-sex marriages and welcome LGBTQ clergy. 

For years, the denomination has been divided over the issue and new sanctions were set to go into place that would have imposed harsh punishments on pastors who officiate same-sex weddings. However, the new proposal will allow for those sanctions—which include a year without pay for one violation and being defrocked for a second—to be postponed until the formal vote this spring. 

The details of the agreement are outlined in the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, which was released today.

In this agreement, the bishops say, “The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person.”