Wisconsin religious leaders react to proposed split of United Methodist Church

NOW: Wisconsin religious leaders react to proposed split of United Methodist Church

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The United Methodist Church could split over the topic of gay marriage and clergy. It's an issue that's sparked heave debate within the congregation.

“People need to come together, they need to discuss things rationally and come to an equitable solution," Lynne Hines-Levy, pastor of Summerfield United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, said.

She does not agree with a proposed division over gay rights.

“I don’t think it is necessary, and not everyone does think it’s necessary," she said.

The church was created in the 1960s.

Leaders from the Wisconsin United Methodist Church Conference say allowing LGBTQ members and clergy has been a painful discussion, for all, for more than 50 years.

“And I believe that while there have been incredible, intentional, and faithful efforts, to maintain unity there’s a growing number of people who believe that we have done as much as we can and that this is an irreconcilable difference,” Dan Dick, assistant to the Bishop said. 

He added that cultural differences on LGBTQ identity, around the world, have greater influence on the church’s global ministry.

“Our cultural context in Africa, in Russia, in the Ukraine, in the Philippines, in Northern Europe and the United States, very different cultural context," he said. “A one-sized fits all approach is not working.”

Using numbers from conference listening sessions in 2016, he said roughly 70-percent of Wisconsin Methodists are moderate or progressive, and about 15-percent value traditional teachings.

“We have to try to work through our differences," Pastor Hines-Levy said.

She told CBS 58 all are welcomed at her church, but the final decision isn’t up to her.

“It’s up to the General Conference,” she said. “We have to trust that they are the ones who have all of our best interest at heart.”

CBS 58 also reached out to the LGBT Center of Southeastern Wisconsin which, at this point, declined to comment.

United Methodist leaders will vote on the split during the church's general conference in Minneapolis in May.

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