More than 200 churches across Georgia, Florida and Arkansas are leaving the United Methodist Church (UMC) because of the mainline Protestant denomination’s reticence to follow its Biblical rules prohibiting same-sex marriage and the ordination of “noncelibate homosexuals.”
The UMC Book of Discipline currently defines homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching” and rejects the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of those who engage in homosexual acts.
But denominational leaders have increasingly been reluctant to disaffiliate with a growing number of UMC congregations that have jettisoned the Bible’s clear teachings about marriage and sexuality.
Meanwhile, UMC’s General Conference is not scheduled to meet until 2024 to officially address the schism during its denominational legislative gathering. On May 1, the Global Methodist Church (GMC) was launched for UMC congregations desiring to remain faithful to God’s teaching on marriage while upholding abstinence from sexual immorality as defined in Scripture.
The UMC North Georgia Conference announced in early June that 70 congregations, accounting for 9% of its churches and 3% of its members, will officially disaffiliate June 30.
“Bless these congregations as they depart,” prayed North Georgia Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, according to a June 2 press release from the 2022 North Georgia Annual Conference. “I pray that we will be partners in ministry and you will do your mighty work of healing division and overcoming rifts.”
On May 3, Florida’s Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) announced that 107 churches were leaving the UMC to join the GMC in an effort to maintain Biblical orthodoxy. The defection from the UMC accounts for nearly 20% of the Florida conference’s churches and includes Anglo, African American, Latino and Korean communities of faith.
“We are not leaving The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has left us,” said Jay Therrell, president of the WCA–Florida, in a Facebook post. “After a decades-long rise of theological liberalism, the selective enforcement of our denominational laws, and a strong surge in the promotion of partisan politics, our churches long for the day of being able to unite with like-minded Christians who focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus and help people to be transformed by His salvation.”
Therrell continued, “We pray the leadership of the Florida Conference will follow Jesus’ teachings by blessing us and allowing us to depart amicably, without paying backbreaking amounts of money that would close or cripple most churches. Such an amicable departure was included in the Protocol for separation. Sadly, if they will not, we must contend for our faith as the Bible encourages us to do. We will not back down. We will take up our crosses and follow Jesus.”
Additionally, 35 of the 634 member churches of the UMC Arkansas Conference began their disaffiliation process in early June.
Above: The church entrance of St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist Church in New York on April 20.
Photo: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/Newscom