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Local Pastor Keeps Faith As United Methodist Church Prepares Vote On Split

Church of the Saviour United Methodist in Cleveland Heights. [Google Earth]
Church of the Saviour United Methodist in Cleveland Heights.

The United Methodist Church General Conference in May will vote on a plan to split into more than one denomination after years of debate over whether to allow same sex marriage in the church. 

Reverend Andy Call, lead pastor at Church of the Saviour in Cleveland Heights, had high praise for mediator Kenneth Feinberg and the negotiating team that led to the proposed split. 

"At this point, initial reaction is that it looks pretty even-handed," Call said. "It looks kind of like what most of us who have been involved in General Conference have expected to happen."

A church would not need to vote to remain affiliated with the United Methodist Church under the proposal. The agreement also would pledge $25 million to a "traditionalist" denomination that would continue to oppose same sex marriage and refuse ordination to LGBTQ clergy.

If approved, the schism would divide the third-largest religious denomination in the United States. 

While Call said he needed to look into more details of the proposal, he also said he knows Ohio Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, one of the 16 members of the negotiating team, wants to safeguard the legacy and continue the mission of the church.

"Anything that Bishop Palmer is involved in gets a high level of credibility from me personally because I know him and trust him so much," Call said.

At the 2019 General Conference, which Call attended, arguments between traditionalist and progressive wings of the church became repetitive and no progress was made, Call said.

"LGBTQ folks are feeling that there is no place for them in the denomination," Call said. "Traditionalists feel that they've been asked to give up too many things and that our covenant agreements don't hold anymore and we've come to a place where I don't think there's no information or new arguments being injected."

The time spent on this issue has partly clouded the perception of the church's mission, Call said.

“We've captured so much and spent so much energy on this particular part of our conversation that we've kind of lost focus,” he said. “It makes it seem like that's all we do and that's in fact a very small part of what we do. We really are about living our lives like Jesus and trying to make the world a better place.”

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.