Almost 100 United Methodist Church congregations in Louisiana officially disaffiliated from the denomination last weekend due to a longstanding debate over homosexuality.
On Saturday, UMC's Louisiana Annual Conference voted to approve the departure of the 95 congregations during a special session.
The session was called "for the sole purpose of voting on the Louisiana Conference Board of Trustees recommendations for the churches disaffiliating per paragraph 2553," The Christian Post reports.
"This road has been long, and it has not been easy for those who choose to stay or remain in the United Methodist Church," Bishop Delores J. Williamston said after the vote. "I want to say to those who chose to stay and remain: we see you and are moving forward. We want you to know that you do have a place in the United Methodist Church, and there is much work to do."
"We know healing is needed throughout the whole conference, but rest assured there are signs of hope in our conference," she added. "Ministries are happening. Churches are reaching out to those whose churches are disaffiliated. Groups are meeting in Stay United Methodist Church groups, … new strategies are being deployed to help people reconnect. Our sights have been set on people who have not yet been reached or have been part of a worshiping community that doesn't know they have a seat at the table."
First United Methodist Church of Shreveport, one of the state's largest Methodist churches, was among the departing churches. During a meeting in April, 84 percent of the 1,100-member congregation voted in favor of the disaffiliation.
According to The Christian Post, in March, a judge rejected a lawsuit seeking to prevent churches from leaving the Louisiana Conference. Clergy had sued the conference and its board of trustees for attempting to block the disaffiliation process.
So far, more than 1,800 congregations have officially disaffiliated from the UMC due to the denomination's debate over the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay clergy. Both practices are prohibited in the UMC's Book of Discipline.
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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.