Pasadena's First United Methodist Church Faces Split of Denomination Over LGBTQ Divide

Published : Monday, January 6, 2020 | 5:52 AM

An impasse over LGBTQ inclusion could lead to a mutual split in the United Methodist Church leaving traditionalists to create a new denomination and remaining churches like the First United Methodist Church in Pasadena to allow same-sex marriages.

The proposal was announced on Friday, an alternate consideration would result in the departure of the more progressive churches to start a separate denomination.

“We have been fighting on the side of fighting for full inclusion,” said Rev. Sandra Olewine of First United Methodist Church. “There is a lot of stuff that has to happen, including an outline of protocol. There is a lot of legislation that has to be written between now and May. A lot has to happen, but that would be a good thing.”

Members of the First UMC voted to become a reconciling congregation committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQ on Oct. 23, 2011. After the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in 2015, the congregation voted to allow same-sex marriages at the church in the 500 block of Colorado Boulevard.

The proposal was announced by Adam Hamilton, who leads the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection of Leawood, Kansas. According to Hamilton, the traditionalists would leave with their property and receive funds to help start the new denomination.

A 16-member group of bishops and church leaders signed the proposal last month and released the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” on Friday. The proposal will be voted on at the church’s general conference May 5-15 in Minneapolis.

If the vote is successful, the remaining churches would then vote to change the United Methodist Book of Discipline to remove wording characterizing homosexuality as sinful. The vote would also eliminate the prohibition against same-sex “marriage” in United Methodist churches.

“The United Methodist Church and its members — after careful reflection, discussion and prayer — have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice,” reads the proposal. The church leaders agreed that separation is 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.”

During the 10-year battle, some churches have raised rainbow flags in a show of LGBT solidarity. Some pastors have vowed to defy the strict rules and continue to allow gay weddings in Methodist churches. Churches are withholding dues payments to the main office in protest, and the UMC’s receipts were down 20 percent in March, according to financial reports posted online.

Olewine described the 10-year schism in the church a quagmire, that has caused some members to leave the church.

“It’s hard to draw causality,” Olewine said. “Certainly people have left because they are tired of the fight.”

The First United Church of Pasadena has been part of the city since 1877, nine years before the city incorporated, when a one-room methodist church with 200 seats, an organ, a church bell and kerosene lamps was dedicated on Orange Grove Boulevard near Palmetto.

In 1923, the church moved to its current location on Colorado Boulevard and Oakland Avenue.

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