A large church in Arkansas has voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church over the denomination's long-standing debate on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
"Over 1300 people took time to come and be heard about the future of our congregation. The vote was over 69% for disaffiliation, and 31% voted against," the church said in a Facebook post.
"We all pray for healing in our congregation."
Meanwhile, a Facebook group comprised of members who did not want to depart from the mainline denomination expressed disappointment over Sunday's decision.
"We are obviously disheartened and saddened that anyone would want to leave the UMC. We worked through a process that was problematic and challenging," the group, Stay UMC Jonesboro, said.
"Our goal now is to be a resource to the Annual Conference should they have questions regarding the steps that were and were not followed."
First United Methodist Church held an 18-month discernment process before Sunday's vote. In a letter on June 26, the church's administrative board expressed support for the disaffiliation from the UMC.
The letter also noted that it would cost approximately $650,000 for Frist United Methodist Church to keep its property. It further stated that the congregation plans to join the newly launched conservative denomination, the Global Methodist Church.
"We affirm that the majority of the congregation opposes changing the belief structure and desires to remain the traditional Methodist Church we have always been," the letter states.
"By disaffiliating and joining the Global Methodist Church, Methodists continue to stay in this building, and the belief structure remains the same."
According to the board, joining the GMC would allow the Arkansas church to remain a traditional Methodist congregation consistent with Wesleyan Theology," "own all of our property and not be subject to a trust clause," have "more autonomy in choosing pastoral staff" and have "more accountability at the highest level of leadership because Bishops will not be appointed for a lifetime."
"Our congregation has been consistently clear that the shifts in theological teaching and the failures of the UMC to enforce the doctrinal discipline do not reflect the beliefs of the strong majority of our membership," the letter continued.
"By completing the process as outlined by the Discipline and our conference, we will be released from the United Methodist Denomination and retain full ownership of all of our church property and be free to join the Global Methodist Church."
In early June, about 35 of the 634 member churches of the UMC Arkansas Conference were undergoing processes of discernment to determine if they should disaffiliate from the mainline denomination.
"This is not a battle to be won; it's not a mixed martial arts cage match. It's a time of grief and discernment," Arkansas Bishop Gary Mueller said in a video post in April.
"We need to respect the best intentions of others."
Photo courtesy: Public Domain/Creative Commons
Video courtesy: ©Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church
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.