Two Georgia churches that left the United Methodist Church over the denomination's opposition to same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy have merged into one church.
The churches involved in the merger are Asbury Memorial Church and Wesley Oak Church. They are both based in Savannah, and both split from the UMC South Georgia Conference earlier this month.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Monday, Asbury Memorial Pastor Rev. William Hester explained why the church decided to depart from the UMC immediately following the 2019 special session of the UMC General Conference.
At the time, delegates voted to uphold UMC's conservative stance, meaning that it would not allow for the ordination of LGBT clergy or same-sex marriage. Moreover, the decision rejected a compromise proposal which would have provided more regional variance.
"It became clear after this event that the denomination was not heading in the direction we had hoped," Hester said.
"Since we disaffiliated last year, Asbury Memorial is a nondenominational, independent church continuing to be rooted in Wesleyan theology," he added.
The pastor also addressed the merger with Wesley Oak Church, noting that both churches have a long history together and have agreed to unite as one congregation.
"When both congregations felt called to disaffiliate, we both recognized that our ministries would be more effective if we combined our efforts and resources," Hester said.
The Rev. David Thompson, the conference's coastal district superintendent, told The Christian Post that he was involved in the conversations between both departing congregations and the regional body.
"We are never happy to see local churches depart from our fellowship but understand their desire to do so and pray for their future ministry," Thompson said, adding that the splitting process was "gracious" in nature.
"Even though changes in church status and connection can occur, we are still bound together in the body of Christ, and I am thankful for the ministry Asbury Memorial and Wesley Oak have done and will do in the name of Christ," he continued.
The conservative churches, however, have to wait until next year's general conference to receive approval to split from the UMC and form their own denomination.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola
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.