After years of acrimonious debate, the United Methodist Church has started to rupture. One church—with members ranging from 'flaming progressive to dang near fundamentalist'—tries to reconcile an increasingly unavoidable divide. // Photos by Julia Wall
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For decades, the United Methodist Church (UMC), America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, has taken a hard line against same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate lesbians and gay men. The UMC reaffirmed and even toughened that stance in 2019. But a sizable number of clergy and laypeople rejected the position as harmful and un-Christlike, and the long-running dispute has triggered church trials, civil disobedience, and mass arrests. Each side has accused the other of dishonesty and political maneuvering—a cycle of mutual recrimination.