LOS ANGELES — The United Methodist Church is expected to split into two separate denominations later this year.
One will be “traditionalist methodist” and will continue to oppose same sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy, while the remaining portion would recognize both for the first time in the church’s history.
The move comes as church leaders hope to end a contentious impasse that's been going on for years within the nation's third largest religious denomination.
For the last two years, worshippers Victor Self and Chris Fraley have been spending Sundays mornings with their daughters, Coco and Kiki, at Los Angeles First United Methodist Church.
A pop-up chapel is erected each week in a parking lot in downtown Los Angeles and on the first Sunday of the New Year, part of the service was dedicated to honoring and renewing the unions of married LGBT couples like Self and and his husband Fraley.
“I think it’s always good for people around the country and in Los aAgeles and everywhere to see families like ours and to have our relationship affirmed and reaffirmed," Self said.
Both Self and Fraley were raised in Christian homes and have leaned on their faith throughout their 16-year relationship, especially during the challenges of creating their family.
“Our faith got us through those times and I think it’s almost something we’re trying to pass on to our children so that they know there’s something greater than them out there," Self said.
The couples says their faith will also help them get through last week’s news of the expected schism within the church. They are heartbroken that at the core of the conflict is whether the church will officially accept same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
“It was disappointing and then at the same time it gives us an opportunity to sort of detach with dignity," Self said.
Reverand Mandy McDow, who has become a close friend of the couple, likens the expected church split to a painful but necessary divorce.
“There are two parties that at one point loved each other very much, have a shared history and story, and yet are in a place where they cannot live together anymore," said Rev. McDow.
She recognizes gay marriage in her congregation and wanted to honor couples like Self and Fraley through Sunday's New Year service, but also offered prayers for those who hold the church’s more traditionalist views and are unable to accept LGBTQ marriage or clergy.
“What I have to do is give them the same grace I would want, which is to understand that they’re on their path. That God works in their lives in the same way God has worked in mine," said Rev. McDow.
In Yorba Linda, one of Orange County’s most conservative communities, Reverand Brian long represents UMC's conservative view point.
“If a same sex couple were to say, ‘Pastor Brian we want to be married,’ although I wouldn’t do it, I believe my responsibility would be to say, "I won’t but here are other avenues where you could,'" said Rev. Long.
Despite his stance on the controversial issue, Rev. Long welcomes LGBTQ worshippers at his chapel every Sunday.
“I believe it to be a sin, but I don’t keep a checklist of people’s sins and it’s not my responsibility to check people’s morality," said Rev. Long.
Until a final decision is made by UMC leaders this May, Self and Fraley say they will continue to practice their faith and pray for those who don’t share their beliefs.
“Our relationships are as valid as any other relationships and places like this allow us to live that reality," Self said.
A reality that allows them to walk in grace feeling accepted, regardless of church politics.