The largest United Methodist Church in South Carolina announced plans to leave the mainline denomination over an ongoing debate on homosexuality in the church.
According to the Post and Courier, Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church of Lexington, which has a congregation exceeding 5,000 members, started a discernment process earlier this week about leaving the UMC.
"We are thankful a plan, path and price has been provided for traditional churches to consider separation from the denomination," the Rev. Jeff Kersey, the senior pastor of Mt. Horeb, told The Post and Courier.
The church is affiliated with the UMC South Carolina Conference, a regional body of the denomination which oversees all of the congregations in the state.
One representative of the Conference told The Christian Post that Mt. Horeb was the "largest local church in the South Carolina Conference."
The Conference also noted that "no local church in the South Carolina Conference has voted to separate from The United Methodist Church," even though numerous UMC congregations in other US states have recently departed from the denomination.
There are multiple steps in The Conference's discernment policy, including a council vote, a call to the church conference by the district superintendent and paying off existing financial obligations such as apportionments and 10 percent of the value of the congregation's property and assets.
Additionally, at least two-thirds of church members present must support disaffiliation in a congregational vote.
Numerous congregations across the United States have already disaffiliated from the UMC due to an ongoing debate regarding homosexuality, including blessing same-sex marriages and ordaining gay clergy.
According to the UMC's Book of Discipline, "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
Last May, theologically Methodist conservatives launched a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, in response to the schism in the UMC.
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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.