TEXODUS: 439 Texas Churches Leave United Methodist Church as LGBTQ Schism Unfolds Across US
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Over the weekend, two of the four United Methodist Church (UMC) regional conferences in Texas approved the requests of 439 congregations who had asked to leave the denomination after disagreeing with the UMC over same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay pastors.
The Dallas Morning News reports the Texas Annual Conference, based in Houston, granted approval to 294 churches out of its nearly 600. And the Northwest Texas Conference, based in Lubbock, approved the departure of 145 churches from the roughly 200 it encompasses.
In addition, the Central Texas Conference has already allowed 81 of its 185 congregations to depart, and 44 of the Dallas-based North Texas Conference, with 276 churches, are in the process of leaving the UMC.
So far, about 546 of the 1,260 UMC churches in Texas, or about 45 percent are leaving the UMC, according to The Morning News.
As CBN News reported last month, the UMC is accelerating its moves to become more accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, leading to more divisions within the denomination and more departures from the group.
Each of the church's five U.S. jurisdictions met separately in November to approve measures where "LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered."
Also, the denomination elected its second openly gay bishop.
Conservatives say the developments will only accelerate their exit from one of the nation's largest Protestant denominations.
Rev. Nathan Lonsdale Bledsoe, the senior pastor at St. Stephen's United Methodist Church in Houston, which is staying in the UMC, told The Texas Tribune the departures from the main denomination "parallels this moment in the broader world."
"It's a hard time to bring people together," he said. "We really reflect the brokenness of the culture and the world."
In 2019, church delegates at the UMC national convention approved a disaffiliation plan for churches to leave the denomination and keep their church buildings if certain steps were met before the end of 2023. Before the 439 Texas congregations left the UMC over the weekend, some 1,314 churches had already left the denomination, according to the United Methodist News Service.
As CBN News has reported, many of the congregations are heading for the newly formed conservative denomination known as the Global Methodist Church. The new denomination was established by former conservative leaders from the UMC. It follows a biblical New Testament doctrine that does not recognize same-sex marriage.
Even though the number of churches leaving the denomination represents a small percentage of the more than 30,500 UMC churches in the U.S. alone, it has not been without financial repercussions. The denomination's leaders have begun to prepare what will be the group's lowest budget sent to the UMC General Conference in almost 40 years, according to the United Methodist News Service.
The current budget proposal will reflect significant cuts to funding for denomination-wide ministries.
The proposed budget's bottom line marks a reduction of more than 38% from the denomination's $604 million budget approved by the General Conference in 2016, according to UM News.
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