The United Methodist Church looks poised to allow same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history—but it'll come at a cost. The nation's third-largest denomination will fracture as a result, as soon as May, reports the Washington Post. An agreement announced Friday—signed by 16 church leaders, both liberals and conservatives—calls for traditionalist congregations that view LGBT restrictions as supported by the Bible to form a new denomination with $25 million in United Methodist funds over four years. There have been inklings of such a move since church leaders narrowly voted to maintain a ban on same-sex marriages and allowing LGBT people to serve as clergy last February.
"It felt as though something died that day within the United Methodist communion," the Rev. Erin Martin of Portland, Ore., told USA Today in November, adding, "we may not be able to hold together." The Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the traditionalist Wesley Covenant Association, which has already begun forming its own doctrines, says many members felt the two factions were irreparable. "I believe this is a fair and equitable solution that puts decades of conflict behind us and gives us a hopeful future," he tells the United Methodist News Service. Traditionalist congregations can take certain church assets with them under the agreement brokered by mediation expert Kenneth Feinberg. It will need to be approved at the church's general conference in May. (Read more United Methodists stories.)