261 United Methodist Church Congregations Leave Over LGBTQ+ Policy Differences

Issues surrounding LGBTQ leaders and gay marriage have led 261 United Methodist congregations to disaffiliate from the denomination.

2019 Church Decision Caused Rift

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The National United Methodist Church decided in 2019 that it would allow congregations to separate “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

Churches Had Until End of Year to Leave

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The deadline to do so was the end of 2023, and on Saturday the North Georgia Conference agreed by vote to accept the disaffiliation of 261 churches as a result. 

Bishop Expresses Sadness Over Split

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Bishop Robin Dease led the conference over the weekend and spoke on the difficult nature of the split.

Decision to Leave Makes it a “Sad Time” for the Church

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“I realize how sad this time is for many, including myself. I just hate that those who are leaving us, I will not have the opportunity to meet or be with,” she said.

Leaders Reinforced Gay Ban in 2019

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The United Methodist Church’s bans on gay leaders and marriages were not new, but were confirmed in 2019 in a close-call vote. 

Congregations’ Decision to Leave Was Expected

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At the time, a split was predicted, as many Methodists were devastated with the way the vote was resolved, and a number of leaders said they would refuse to comply with the rules.

“I Feel Like Someone Has Died”

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“I feel like someone has died,” said Jordan Harris at the time. Harris is a gay minister who was seeking to become ordained within the United Methodist Church.

Other Georgia Churches Have Already Left

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This recent exodus, which goes into effect at the end of November, follows a similar one from the state earlier this year. In May, 193 United Methodist congregations in South Georgia split from the church over the same issue.

Methodist Leader Issues Statement

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Following the initial round of separations in May, Bishop David Graves released a statement to the media.

“Today is a Day of Sadness”

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“Today is a day of sadness in the life of the South Georgia Annual Conference. We grieve in saying farewell to the 193 churches disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church and wish them the best in ministry,” Graves wrote.

Statement from Methodists Explains Why Churches Left

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The statement also addressed the reason for the split.“The United Methodist Church currently maintains prohibitions on same sex weddings and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy.

Most congregations and clergy currently seeking to leave the denomination point to some regions of the church within the United States failing to fully enforce the Book of Discipline’s standards for ordination and marriage,” it read. 

Gay Marriage and Leadership is “Incompatible” with the Church

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The referenced Book of Discipline has a clear stance on gay people: “Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” it says.

Methodist Churches Separating in Great Numbers

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Similar divisions have been happening all over the country since the 2019 decision. Some leaders who remain involved in the United Methodist Church hope that the split will ultimately lead to positive change.

Queer Pastor Says Split is a Blessing

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Kimberly Scott, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles, identifies as a queer Black woman and said she is grateful for those in church leadership who bend the rules for people like her.

Staying for Family Legacy

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“My family came from Methodists in the South, so we were Methodist when members were OK with slavery. And my family never left. And so I was like, I can’t leave over this,” she said, referring to the 2019 decision. “If my grandparents stayed, then I can stay to see this to the end.”

Hopeful Members Hold Out for Change

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Scott and other queer Methodists hope to see a rule change eventually allowing LGBTQ church members to serve in officially recognized capacities and get married with the church’s blessing.

The post 261 United Methodist Church Congregations Leave Over LGBTQ+ Policy Differences  first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.

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