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Methodist Christians who oppose same-sex marriage agree to separate into new 'traditionalist' denomination

The split has been brewing for months

Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The United Methodist Church announced an agreement to split into two separate denominations over the issue of same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, according to the New York Times.

Those who hold to the belief that the church should not support same-sex marriage and should not ordain gay clergy will separate into a "traditionalist" denomination if the agreement is approved in May at the denomination's annual conference.

The schism is the result of two three-day mediation sessions in Washington. A committee of church leaders determined that separating was "the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding."

At last year's conference, 53 percent of leaders and lay members voted to tighten the prohibition of homosexuality within the church, calling the practice "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Because the United Methodist Church is international, stances on this issue varied greatly in different countries, many of which are not as culturally accepting of homosexuality as the United States has become. From the Washington Post:

The United Methodist Church, unlike those denominations, is worldwide, not almost entirely American. Nearly one-third of the church's membership is in Africa, and speakers from outside the United States — including Liberia and Russia — were among the most vocal proponents of the traditional plan.

Jerry Kulah, head of the UMC Africa Initiative, said he was sorry the church had spent so much time and money debating questions about homosexuality. "The progressive groups are loud, but they don't have the numbers," he said. If the church had voted to affirm LGBT inclusion, he said, it would have become a "laughingstock" in Africa.

The Bible explicitly speaks against homosexuality in the Old Testament and New Testament, but many churches in the U.S. in various denominations have chosen to move away from those prohibitions and begun to perform same-sex marriages and appoint LGBT leaders.

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