The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist church is being sued by more than 180 churches seeking to leave the mainline denomination.
According to CBN News, 186 churches – which involves more than a quarter of the North Georgia Conference's nearly 700 congregations – filed the lawsuit on March 30 in Cobb County Superior Court in Marietta, Georgia after conference leaders paused the disaffiliation process.
Per UM News, it’s the highest number of congregations that have come together in a single lawsuit to the regional body of the United Methodist Church (UMC) amid a long-standing debate on LGBT issues.
In the lawsuit, the churches contend that conference leaders acted “wrongfully, in bad faith, and … beyond the limits of their power” to rob the churches of “the right to vote on withdrawal from the UMC with their property intact.”
The congregations hoped that the conference would restore the disaffiliation process and punitive damages.
In an email by conference leaders, they announced that they would revisit the disaffiliation process after the next General Conference, which is slated to take place April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In a statement by North Georgia Conference Bishop Robin Dease, she said her “heart aches” about the lawsuit and that conference leaders are working toward developing a disaffiliation process that meets the requirements of the Book of Discipline.
"However, the cabinet discovered and observed that many local churches have been misled about the disaffiliation process and have been presented with information about the process, and about The United Methodist Church and its leadership, that is factually incorrect and defamatory," Dease said. "We have significant concerns about this misinformation and are well aware that it has the potential to do irreparable harm."
The "information presented to members of local churches about disaffiliation has been outside the bounds of normal and acceptable civil discourse,” she added. “It has not only been false and misleading but has been antithetical to the concept of a gracious exit or a commitment to honoring the mission and ministry of all Christians.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.