SOUTHERN COLORADO — The first Sunday services of the United Methodist Church were held since national leaders presented a proposal on Friday that could split the church in two.
The issues dividing the church are same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy members. News5 met with several local Methodist church members who said the potential separation is bittersweet.
Barb Donnegan said she has been a member of the First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs for around two years, and she has stuck with that church because it felt like home to her. She said she saw the writing on the wall about the split, and wanted to make sure the congregation she chose would support her beliefs.
"It makes me sad that we couldn't come together... I'm also feeling like we need to be done with the conflict within," Donnegan said.
Others from the church said this discussion has been going on for decades.
"For the past probably 20 years it's the lens through which we have looked. I think it's been a detriment to our mission globally... It's distracting, it's exclusionary," said Susan Wheeler, the Sub-District Lay Leader for the Peaks and Pikes Peak Sub-District.
Both Wheeler and Donnegan said they want to be part of a church that includes everyone.
Reverend Tiffany Keith of the First United Methodist Church explained to News5 that the Methodist Church is modeled similarly to the U.S. government. For instance, they have what's called the Book of Discipline, which includes their constitution, historical papers, current rules and by-laws of the church.
She said the Book of Discipline currently states homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching. Reverend Keith went on to say it allows for LGBTQ people to become members, but does not allow weddings in the churches, and people who are homosexual can only be ordained if they are celibate.
"We feel like this is oppression, it is injustice, and therefore we are going to resist what it says in the Book of Discipline," said Reverend Keith about her congregation at the First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs, which has around 2,800 members.
If the split were to happen, Reverend Keith said their church would remain under the original United Methodist Church umbrella. The divide would create a new Traditionalist Methodist Denomination, which would continue to practice the ban on same-sex marriage and those who practice homosexuality from being ordained as clergy members.
"It is really hopeful for us, and the United Methodist Church, that maybe there is a way for us to move forward, and really part with a blessing, and bless one another and each other's ministries as we go our separate ways," Reverend Keith said.
Reverend Keith also explained a key part of the proposal, which involves which churches when separated would keep their original buildings. She said right now, churches pay for their building and mortgages but they do not actually own it.
The churches are held in trust by their annual conference. Those that would like to leave the United Methodist Church and transition to the Traditionalist Methodist Denomination would receive the properties. This would happen on a local level by vote, and the churches can decide what that would look like.
Reverend Keith said their congregation would not host a vote, because they will remain in the United Methodist Church.
Meanwhile, Lead Pastor Bob Kaylor of the Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument said he is not sure what their congregation will decide if the split happens.
"We've got a lot of people who are traditional, we've got some people who are progressive. Thus far we've managed to stay together as a church, and to worship together, and work together, and live together. We want to try and maintain that as much as possible," Pastor Kaylor said.
Pastory Kaylor is also a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which he said is preparing for the traditional expression of the United Methodist Church. The Wesleyan Covenant Association's website shows that they believe marriage is meant exclusively for a man and woman.
"Difference between rights, and rites. I believe in the right of all people to be able to marry who they want, that's the law of the land. But, I also believe that the rites of the church are reserved and have very specific theological background that's grounded in scripture," Pastor Kaylor said.
Donnegan said regardless of if the split happens, she will live her life by a basic Christian principle.
"It boils down to one thing for me, Christ told us to love our neighbor. He didn't say 'except,' he just said love your neighbor," Donnegan said.
The proposal to split will be voted on in May in Minneapolis. Right now, the United Methodist Church is the third largest religious denomination in the country.