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The differences have simmered for years, and came to a head in February at a conference in St. Louis where delegates voted 438-384 for a proposal called the Traditional Plan, which strengthens bans on LGBT-inclusive practices.
A majority of US-based delegates opposed that plan and favored LGBT-friendly options, but they were outvoted by US conservatives teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines.
Many believe the vote will prompt an exodus from the church by liberal congregations that are already expressing their dissatisfaction over the move. 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% in March, according to financial reports posted online.
“It’s time for some kind of separation, some kind of amicable divorce,” said James Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, who posted a video assailing the proposal for its “real meanness.”