Over 6,000 churches have been granted approval to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church in the past four years due to an ongoing schism within the denomination over same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.
As of Friday, approximately 6,182 churches departed from the UMC, according to data compiled by UM News. That number includes all the churches that have disaffiliated from the UMC since 2019. Over 1,800 departed in 2022, and more than 4,000 left in 2023.
According to The Christian Post, the UM News count is taken from a "review of U.S. annual conference reports, publicly available journals and reports of special annual conference sessions held in 2022 and this year."
"The General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination's finance agency, is collecting the official data on disaffiliations and church closures," the outlet continued.
"But the finance agency's count of disaffiliations lags behind UM News' data because it must wait for annual conferences to submit official reports."
Earlier this month, the number of churches disaffiliating from the UMC passed the 5,000 mark.
On Wednesday, 189 congregations were given approval to leave the UMC Mississippi Annual Conference.
After the vote was finalized, Mississippi Bishop Sharma Lewis told the assembly that "this disaffiliation process has been tough" for the regional body and that she wanted "all of y'all to stay."
"But I have to have the faith that clergy, laity and faith communities took the time to pray about their next steps. Also, if we are honest, it has been tense. I wanted this to be a time and a space we could put all of that down," Lewis said.
The departures come amid a longstanding debate in the UMC regarding the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay clergy. Although both practices are prohibited in the UMC’s Book of Discipline, theologically progressive leaders have allowed them. As a result, theologically conservative churches have disaffiliated from the denomination and have launched the conservative Global Methodist Church denomination.
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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.