SP Pastor Checks In On Possible Methodist Split

Pastor Sam Park of South Pasadena’s ReNew United Methodist Church predicts that, if his national church splits into two branches over sexuality issues, California churches will embrace same-sex marriage. Photo by Skye Hannah

A proposed split in the United Methodist Church over issues regarding sexuality would mean South Pasadena’s ReNew United Methodist Church would follow most California churches in the denomination and allow same-sex weddings, predicts Pastor Sam Park.

A group of leaders in the United Methodist Church announced last week a plan that would formally split the church because of differences regarding doctrinal views on sexuality.

Park explained that the United Methodist Church is divided into conferences, and that ReNew Church belongs to the California-Pacific Conference, which has generally expressed more progressive and inclusive views on these matters.

“Even if the United Methodist Church does indeed split, on the whole, it would not affect us very much — especially in the near term,’’ Park said, “because the Cal-Pac Conference will not be leaving, and we will not be leaving the Cal-Pac Conference. We will remain in alignment with our conference.’’

The suggested plan by a group of leaders would impact the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and which has 13 million followers around the world.

One group has proposed to maintain restrictions against sanctioning same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing gay clergy, as currently outlined in the United Methodist Church’s “Book of Discipline.’’ They would be leaving and forming a more traditional base.

The plan, once details are spelled out, must be approved by the global General Conference, which will meet in May.

Park pointed out that it still might face rejection by the denomination’s Judicial Council.

“It is important to bear in mind that this plan has not been finalized,’’ Park said. “It’s a plan.

It may be the plan, but at this point, there has been no formal decision made.

“That vote is scheduled for May. Having said that, the vote could be delayed. There could be a motion to tweak the plan — amend the plan — or even to scrap it altogether.’’

Park pointed out that the Methodist “Book of Discipline’’ welcomes LGBTQ members, saying that “all persons are sacred” and may receive sacraments, attend services and participate in the church.

“The United Methodist Church is open to everyone. We practice what is referred to as an ‘open table,’” he said.

“The friction comes when the ‘Book of Discipline’ says that ‘ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by ministers and shall not be celebrated in our churches.’’’

The “Book of Discipline” also says that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, or to be ministers.’’

“If this goes through, I am open to performing same-sex weddings,’’ Park said. “Yet, while it is still our official doctrine, I don’t feel it is my place to go against it.

“Meanwhile, on a personal level, I am a person who is working to reconcile inclusion of LGBT within the body of Christ.’’