A Texas megachurch has announced its departure from the United Methodist Church despite not having a congregational vote, which violates the mainline denomination's rules on dismissal.
The leadership of St. Andrew United Methodist Church of Plano – a 6,000-member megachurch – announced it was disaffiliating from the UMC and changing its name in a statement on the church's website.
"St. Andrew will disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC) but not affiliate with any other existing Methodist denomination. St. Andrew will remain Methodist with the same Wesleyan theology that we have always believed," the announcement reads.
"St. Andrew will be named St. Andrew Methodist and operate over a period as an independent Methodist church while seeking partnerships and accountability with other like-hearted churches. We will be looking to create affiliations with those who also desire greater accountability with more efficient systems and structures than we have had with the UMC," the statement continued.
According to The UMC Book of Discipline paragraph 2553, however, any "decision to disaffiliate" from the mainline denomination "must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference."
In an emailed statement to The Christian Post, St. Andrew's leadership contended that the congregational vote to leave the UMC is unnecessary.
"St. Andrew's decision was made in accordance with its governing legal documents, which allowed the decision to be made without a congregational vote. St. Andrew's stands by the legal enforceability of its decision, and it is overwhelmingly supported by the church members," the church's statement reads.
"St. Andrew's leadership comprises a variety of individuals, all with unique professional experience and personal views that are representative of our congregation. They collectively spent hundreds of hours of in-depth research examining both the decision to disaffiliate and the mechanism to make the decision," the church continued.
Bishop Michael McKee for the UMC North Texas Annual Conference, which St. Andrew is a part of, expressed disappointment at the church's handling of the disaffiliation.
"The process by which St. Andrew made this decision is unique in the history of our Wesleyan tradition, which requires congregational votes on major decisions," McKee told The Christian Post in a statement.
"I mourn the fact the members of St. Andrew were denied both voice and vote on the most consequential decision their church has ever made."
Over the past several years, many congregations have chosen to disaffiliate from the UMC over a long-standing debate on LGBT issues, such as same-sex marriage and gay clergy.
Another Texas megachurch, The Woodlands Methodist Church, voted to disaffiliate from the UMC in August after 96.3 percent of the church voted to leave the denomination.
The UMC Texas Annual Conference will hold a special session on December 3 in Houston as more than 210 congregations have considered leaving the UMC.
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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.