Members of the United Methodist Church decided to delay the General Conference until 2021 due to travel and gathering limitations imposed because of the coronavirus.

The executive committee of the commission on the General Conference met via teleconference on Saturday and released plans for the delay today.

“As we looked at the complex issues that we will need to navigate to reschedule the event and the lack of options available, it does not appear feasible to plan for 2020,” said Kim Simpson, commission char. “These issues include the undetermined length of the pandemic, uncertainty around travel bans in different areas of the world, delays in processing visas due to government and business closures and other questions.”

A new date for the General Conference has not been set yet.

Church delegates were preparing to vote on the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” plan at the General Conference, originally slated for May 5-15 in Minneapolis. The plan addresses same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, issues that created a schism in the United Methodist Church.

At a special called meeting in February 2019, delegates voted 438-384 for a proposal called the Traditional Plan, which affirmed bans on LGBTQ-inclusive practices. In January, a 16-member group of United Methodist bishops and leaders published the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” and recommended delegates vote on and adopt the plan at General Conference.

The plan allows conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy to leave for a new “traditional Methodist” denomination. Churches that decide to leave will retain their property and the new denomination would receive $25 million over four years. The split would allow those remaining in the United Methodist Church to repeal the church's ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.

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