An Oklahoma megachurch in South Tulsa has parted with the United Methodist Church amid denominational division.
Asbury United Methodist Church, now Asbury Church, announced its disaffiliation from the UMC, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., on Monday.
"Asbury is a traditional, Wesleyan congregation that is committed to Helping Others Follow Jesus. Because of the slow and steady drift of The United Methodist Church from their historic Christian mission, we have begun the process of disaffiliating from the denomination," the megachurch said in a statement.
"We do not know where or when we will affiliate with a new denomination. Currently, our main focus is protecting the assets and interests of Asbury and fully disaffiliating from the UMC," the church continued.
Asbury Church also hinted at possibly joining the new Global Methodist Church denomination. The GMC is a theologically conservative group of Methodists who have also split from the UMC over LGBTQ-related issues. The GMC plans to launch on May 1.
"This future denomination will be made up of former United Methodists from North America, Africa, Europe and elsewhere who uphold the authority of Scripture," Asbury said in reference to the GMC. "The formation of this new denomination has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic."
The megachurch noted that a transition committee comprised of staff and lay leaders has been convening and planning for three years about how to help the church through its disaffiliation from the UMC and the appointment of a new senior pastor.
"Whatever happens, we will retain Asbury's identity as a Scripturally focused and doctrinally faithful congregation," the church concluded.
As reported by Tulsa World, Asbury Church's senior pastor explained that the split had been in the works "for some time."
"Asbury Church's disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church has been inevitable for some time," the Rev. Tom Harrison said in a statement.
"There isn't one issue driving this separation; rather, after years of operating under vastly different approaches to theology, ministry and Christology, it was determined by the leadership of the Church, in conjunction with the pastoral staff, that these approaches are irreconcilable and no longer sustainable," he continued. "As Asbury Church, we will continue to pursue our mission of helping others follow Jesus."
For years, the UMC had been divided over the ordination of LGBT clergy and the performance of same-sex marriages. In recent years, the growing division reached a breaking point, leading the denomination to split, with progressive and conservative Methodists announcing new denominations.
The UMC postponed its General Conference for a third time earlier this month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The denomination is supposed to talk about the denominational schism during the conference. In response to the continual delays, the GMC has decided to launch its denomination ahead of the rescheduled conference, which will now take place in 2024.
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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.