Shawnee Mission clergy say a split of United Methodist Church would have no effect on ministry

Asbury United Methodist
In discussions last year over possible disaffiliation with the United Methodist Church, Rev. Gayla Rapp (left), senior pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, said she was hurting with her fellow parishioners because of the United Methodist Church’s reaffirmation to ban same sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.

In the wake of an announcement last week of a possible split within the United Methodist Church, some Shawnee Mission area clergy say they’ve share with their congregations their plans to continue supporting incorporation of LGBTQ clergy and performing same-sex marriages.

The United Methodist Church has wrestled with a schism in philosophy regarding inclusion of the LGBTQ community. The church last year had passed a traditionalist plan that prohibited performing same-sex marriages and appointing LGBTQ clergy — and would penalize churches that did so.

Local pastors have voiced their opposition to the traditionalist plan, including Rev. Adam Hamilton with the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

As such, a diverse group of United Methodist leaders have proposed a plan of separation that allows progressive churches to remain the United Methodist Church, while traditionalist churches would form under a new denomination. Most Methodist churches in the United States, including several in the Shawnee Mission area, support a centrist or progressive church that remains united, according to Mainstream UMC.

“We’re very positive about what the future holds,” said Rev. Gayla Rapp, who serves at Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village. “We are very thankful that people from all different positions and perspectives courageously got together and have drawn up this plan, and we have great hope for that.

“I’m hoping that people who find themselves at the extremes — extremely liberal or extremely conservative — who may not feel like the plan does enough, that they’ll find a way to be part of this plan because they’ll see it as a way for the church to move forward and continue to do vital and important ministry.”

The earliest that a split could occur is May. Under the proposed plan, churches that choose to split from the United Methodist Church would be allowed to keep their properties and remain organized under a new denomination.

Rev. David Livingston, a Shawnee Mission area clergyman who considers himself a centrist on the issue, hopes the United Methodist Church can remain united as one church that supports inclusion of the LGBTQ community. He doesn’t expect that will happen, considering the divisive nature of recent discussions.

“I support full inclusion of people who identify as LGBT+, and so my personal hope is that the United Methodist Church can move that direction as well,” Livingston said. “Effectively, we’re divided now. I do believe that as many of us as possible should stay together. I want to help people who have different perspectives to be able to stay in the same church.”

Livingston is now pastor of Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway and previously served several years as lead clergy of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lenexa. His blog offers background on the various perspectives within the United Methodist Church.

Hamilton wasn’t available for comment, but in other news reports, he agreed that it will be “business as usual” for progressive churches.

Both Rapp and Livingston also believe a split will have no effect on the current ministry of their church congregations.

“The relationship that we have with the institution very well may change; the relationship that we have with one another, both within the community of Old Mission for example and the relationship with the greater community around us, that won’t change,” Livingston said. “We’ll still be the church that we’ve always been. I will still be the pastor that I’ve always been.”