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March 21, 2004

Church Schisms, Gays and Slavery

A lesbian Methodist pastor has been found "not guilty" by a church jury of violating church law.

But some Methodists are claiming this can only mean schism in the church:

The Rev. Dr. Maxie D. Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., said: "How can there be a not guilty verdict when what she's done is public and she has confessed it? I'm very surprised and I'm very disappointed because it's another sign of really anarchy in the church."

Dr. Dunnam said the issue could create a schism in the church. "We can't continue to live with a whole segment of the church that is deliberately disobeying the church's law," he said.

The Episcopol church may face similar schism over the issue.

Dividing churches is a major social cleavage.

But for a single issue to break apart a number of churches, there is a precedent.


In the 1840s, the national Baptist church institutions began refusing to send out missionaries who owned slaves or promoted the institution. In response, the southern wing of the church seceded and became a cultural focus for pro-slavery interests in the South.

Other churches faced similar schisms over the issue. The Presbyterians went through a series of divisions over the slavery issue, with southern members seceding and eventually uniting in 1864 to form the Southern Presyberian branch.

the Southern Methodists withdrew from the main Methodist church in 1844, although north and south would reunite again after the War.

If conservatives want to schism once again over the issue of whether a group of Americans deserve equality, they can be morally wrong once again.

In 1995, the Southern Baptists apologized for the racist origins of the denomination. Those churches that schism over gay rights may just be repeating that kind of apology in the future.

Posted by Nathan at March 21, 2004 07:49 AM