Earlier this year, a significant shift occurred within the United Methodist Church (UMC) landscape in Amarillo located in the Texas Panhandle. The seven United Methodist churches in this city made a collective decision to disaffiliate from the UMC, a decision driven by theological concerns surrounding issues such as homosexuality and gender identity. With all seven UMC churches deciding to disaffiliate, the city of 200,000 residents became the largest in the country to lack a United Methodist Church presence. This development has left individuals who maintain an allegiance to the denomination without a place to attend.
Religion News Service reports:
AMARILLO, Texas (RNS) — Earlier this year, the seven United Methodist churches in this city in the Texas Panhandle voted to leave the country’s second-largest Protestant denomination over theological questions about homosexuality and gender identity.
Since 2019, in a process dragged out by the COVID-19 pandemic and denominational infighting, hundreds of churches across Texas — and thousands across the U.S. — have taken advantage of a protocol allowing local churches to disaffiliate from the half-century-old denomination while keeping their real estate and paying off their clergy pension obligations.
But the departure of all seven UMC churches in this city of 200,000 made it the largest city in the nation known to be without a UMC church and left nowhere for those who felt an allegiance to the denomination to go.
The Rev. Margie McNeir, an 83-year-old UMC minister who had retired last year from the city’s oldest church, Polk Street Methodist, was determined that the UMC wouldn’t become extinct in Amarillo.
An 83-year-old UMC minister, the Rev. Margie McNeir, took a proactive stance to ensure the UMC’s continued presence in the city. Led by her, a group has been holding meetings at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Amarillo. On June 4, the group achieved official charter status as Amarillo United Methodist Church.
“We were starting something new. I kept emphasizing that we needed to think about this as we were putting new wine into new wineskins. We were forming a United Methodist church that was not going to be a clone of any one of the seven churches that were here in Amarillo,” said McNeir.
Since April, the group has been meeting at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Amarillo. On June 4, the group was officially chartered as Amarillo United Methodist Church.
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