The United Methodist Church has announced a proposal that would allow for congregations that don’t support same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy to break off and form their own denomination.

Named the “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation,” the proposal is slated to be voted on at the UMC general conference meeting in May. The general conference is the church’s governing body.

If approved, the plan would split the one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world that boasts 12.5 million members in 136 countries, according to the UMC website.

“If this actually passes, it will be a great relief,” Rev. Tom Berlin, a pastor at the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Va., and a centrist member of the panel, told NPR.

“What this proposal allows us to do is be a more inclusive United Methodist Church,” Berlin said. “It also allows us to put a controversy to rest. The controversy itself has been a stumbling block toward our larger mission.”

illustration of stained glass window with Christian cross in Pride flag rainbow colors
A panel of 16 bishops and church leaders from centrist, traditionalist and progressive backgrounds and from the United States, Africa, Europe and the Philippines developed the protocol as the latest effort to end the church’s decades-long feud over LGBTQ+ rights.

All members of the unofficial group signed onto the protocol that says restructuring the UMC by separation “is the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity and respect of every person.”

The new “traditionalist” denomination would continue to ban LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriage while the remaining portion of the UMC would allow LGBTQ+ clergy to be ordained and also allow clergy to officiate same-sex marriages.

The 16-member panel came together following last year’s emotional and contentious vote during a special session of the general conference to uphold the church’s bans on same-sex marriage and ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy.

If the protocol is approved and a new traditionalist Methodist denomination is formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets, according to the Council of Bishops.

An additional $2 million would be used to fund any new Methodist denominations that may arise from the protocol. The UMC would also set aside $39 million to support ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.