Seventy churches in Georgia have announced their plan to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church over the denomination’s decades-long debate on same-sex issues.
Last Thursday, the 2022 UMC North Georgia Annual Conference approved the disaffiliation of 70 congregations, which represents nine percent of its churches and three percent of its members across eight districts. The official date of the disaffiliation will take place on June 30.
“Bless these congregations as they depart,” North Georgia Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson said in a prayer following the vote. “I pray that we will be partners in ministry, and you will do your mighty work of healing division and overcoming rifts.”
The disaffiliation of the Georgia churches is the latest in a series of churches announcing their departure from the UMC over the denomination’s debate on same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy. So far, congregations in Arkansas, Florida, Virginia and Oklahoma have disaffiliated from the denomination.
The UMC Book of Discipline declares that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and thus prohibits the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Some leaders in the UMC, however, have refused to enforce the Book of Discipline’s stance on these issues in their congregations, leading a conservative sect of the denomination to splinter off. A new theologically conservative Methodist denomination, the Global Methodist Church, was launched on May 1. Many churches currently departing from the mainline denomination have joined or are considering joining the GMC. Some progressive-leaning churches are also planning to disaffiliate from the UMC, with many planning to join the Liberation Methodist Connexion, an LGBT-friendly Methodist denomination.
Last month, the high court of the UMC ruled that annual conferences cannot leave the mainline denomination until the decision is first approved at the General Conference in 2024. The General Conference was initially scheduled to take place in 2020 and 2022 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.