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5,200 churches exit UMC in 2023 over LGBTQ+ policies

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is experiencing significant division over its stance on homosexuality, resulting in over 7,000 congregations leaving the denomination since 2019. More than 5,200 churches have disaffiliated in 2023 alone.

Notable departures include 366 churches from the Kentucky Conference, 349 from the North Alabama Conference, 334 from the North Georgia Conference, 326 from the North Carolina Conference, and 317 from the Indiana Annual Conference. A special session of the North Georgia Conference approved the disaffiliation of 261 out of 334 congregations.

The UMC has been engaged in a prolonged debate over whether to change its Book of Discipline, which currently prohibits the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex relationships. Despite failed attempts to amend the Book of Discipline, some liberal leaders have resisted enforcing the rules, causing tension with conservative factions.

A special session in 2019 introduced paragraph 2553, allowing churches to disaffiliate, but this measure is set to expire at the end of the year. Some congregations faced obstacles in disaffiliating, leading to legal action against their conferences. Thousands of departing congregations have joined the Global Methodist Church, a conservative denomination launched as an alternative to the UMC.

The Christian Post reports:

Although efforts to change the Book of Discipline have failed, liberal leaders within the denomination have often refused to follow or enforce the rules, drawing the ire of many theological conservatives.

At a special session of the General Conference held in 2019, delegates voted to add paragraph 2553 to the UMC Book of Discipline, a measure to allow churches to disaffiliate from the denomination. The measure is set to expire at the end of the year.

Some of those churches have filed legal action against their respective conferences, accusing them of either not properly following the disaffiliation process or arguing that the process is unfair.

Earlier this month, a court in Montgomery, Alabama, ruled against 42 congregations trying to leave the Alabama-West Florida Conference, concluding that, as a secular court, it did not have the authority to intervene in the churches’ complaint.

“The Court is without jurisdiction to rule on such issues because the relief sought by Plaintiffs would require the Court to interpret a provision of the Book of Discipline intertwined with church doctrine,” ruled the Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Thousands of congregations that have disaffiliated from the UMC have joined the Global Methodist Church, a theologically conservative denomination launched as an alternative to UMC last year.

Read the full article.

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