Thirty-one United Methodist churches in western North Carolina are asking to leave the United Methodist Church and have hired a Florida law firm to help with the demand.
According to Religion News Service, the National Center for Life and Liberty law firm has sent a letter to Bishop Ken Carter asking that the UMC prepare documents in case of a lawsuit. Carter oversees the UMC's Western North Carolina and Florida annual conferences.
Previously, the NCLL has filed a suit against the Florida Annual Conference from 100 churches requesting to disaffiliate from the UMC.
In many cases, these churches are joining the new Global Methodist Church, a new denomination.
An attorney for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference, which has more than 1,000 churches, has responded to the letter, saying it would not grant the request because it needed to follow an approved disaffiliation plan.
The plan was approved in 2019 by a special session of the UMC's General Conference. The plan allows churches to leave the denomination through the end of 2023 and will enable churches to take their properties after paying two years of apportionments and pension liabilities.
Carter said most of the 31 churches in the most recent request are small, rural churches.
The Western North Carolina Annual Conference has approved the disaffiliation of 18 churches following the approved plan. In Florida, 14 churches were approved for disaffiliation this year.
"We are seeking to do this work in a way that encourages every church to remain in the United Methodist Church," Carter said.
"If they really do desire to depart, we want to do that in a way that's honorable. We have also made the appeal that this is not becoming about misinformation and false witness," he added.
Some churches, however, have said the approved disaffiliation process is "onerous, and in many cases, prohibitive."
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.