Mobile Megachurch Latest Among 6,935 Churches to Leave the UMC
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One of the largest United Methodist (UMC) congregations in Mobile, Alabama, along with seven other UMC churches officially disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church on Sunday amid the ongoing debate over ordaining gay clergy and homosexual marriage.
The UMC has been accelerating its moves to become more accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, despite biblical prohibitions, leading to deeper divisions and more departures from the denomination.
Christ United Methodist Church's disaffiliation request was ratified with the others at a special session on Sunday, called by the Alabama-West Florida Conference Resident Bishop David Graves.
Christ United's membership alone numbers 4,936.
"Today is another somber day in the life of the Alabama-West Florida Conference," Graves said in a statement. "We are saddened to say farewell to the eight churches disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church and wish them the best in ministry. We pray for these churches as they navigate ministry in a new season."
"I especially want to thank those churches who have decided to remain United Methodist and those who heard my call to refrain from holding discussions around leaving the denomination until we have more information. I appreciate your faithfulness to your call and covenant all while leading your churches in a most difficult season," the bishop added.
The disaffiliating churches were identified by the conference as:
- Marietta UMC, Demopolis District
- Oak Grove UMC (2325), Demopolis District
- Christ UMC, Mobile District
- Macedonia UMC, Montgomery-Opelika District
- Benton UMC, Montgomery-Prattville District
- Hayneville UMC, Montgomery-Prattville District
- Lowndesboro UMC, Montgomery-Prattville District
- Salem UMC, Marianna-Panama City District
All eight churches properly fulfilled the obligations outlined in paragraph 2553 of the UMC's Book of Discipline and met the guidelines set forth by the Alabama-West Florida Conference Trustees, the conference said.
"The issues of human sexuality, for too long, have distracted and divided the United Methodist denomination and, in turn, our local church," Rev. Dr. Robert Couch, Christ UMC's lead pastor told WKRG-TV. "Furthermore, the repeated debate has harmed LGBTQ persons each time the Church clarified its long-held beliefs about human sexuality."
The outlet noted the church will now go forward with its new name, Christ United.
"Christ United no longer wants to be distracted and divided by this ongoing controversy, so we requested to disaffiliate from the denomination," Couch said. "We plan to remain an independent congregation for one to two years as we discern any potential future affiliation with other denominations or networks."
248 Churches Have Left UMC's Alabama-West Florida Conference
Before Sunday's vote, 240 congregations had already disaffiliated from the Alabama-West Florida Conference, bringing the total to 248, al.com reported.
Currently, 311 churches remain in the conference that once oversaw more than 600 churches before the disaffiliation requests began, according to the outlet.
According to al.com, 66.7 percent of the members of the last eight churches had all voted to leave the UMC. The departing churches will remain independent or join more conservative Christian denominations like the Global Methodist Church (GMC). The GMC was officially launched in May of 2022.
Last June, the leaders of the Alabama-West Florida Conference asked for loyalty from local church leaders and reportedly toughened the requirements for member churches to disaffiliate, according to al.com.
On Oct. 31, a group of 42 UMC congregations in Alabama and the Florida panhandle filed a lawsuit against Graves and the conference, according to the outlet. In their lawsuit, the churches allege the bishop has delayed the disaffiliation process, which won't allow them to take their church property and leave the UMC by Dec. 31 as allowed by the denomination's exit policy.
Sunday's special meeting was the last disaffiliation vote scheduled for this year, according to al.com.
In a statement, the conference replied to the lawsuit, saying the churches have not met the eligibility requirements for voting to disaffiliate under the UMC Book of Discipline.
"We are saddened by this litigation, but we are confident the process we have adhered to is fair and just," the statement said.
More Than 4,900 Churches Have Left the UMC in 2023
As CBN News has reported, the splintering of the UMC, the second-largest denomination in the U.S. with 6.5 million members, is ongoing as thousands of local churches have left their regional conferences.
According to the United Methodist News Service, at this point, 6,935 congregations, or about 20% of its U.S. churches have completed the required steps and withdrawn under paragraph 2553 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
But that exit policy only applies to congregations in the U.S. and will expire at the end of the year.
Of the 6,935 churches that have left the denomination, 4,930 of those disaffiliations came this year. In 2022, 2,005 churches left the UMC, according to UM News.
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