The doctrinal schism within the United Methodist Church (UMC) over LGBT issues continues apace, with 70 UMC churches in Georgia alone leaving the denomination after a vote of the North Georgia Conference recently allowed their disaffiliation.
The reason, of course, is the ongoing tension within the denomination over such things as the ordination of gay bishops and ministers. Despite the increasing liberalization of the UMC in the United States, the denomination voted in 2019 to affirm the historic tenets of the Methodist Book of Church Discipline which considers the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
In practice, however, very little has changed within the denomination since then.
The denomination also planned to use its General Conference meeting in 2020 to hammer out a proposal to allow churches with a biblical view of sexuality and marriage to leave and form a new denomination. Conservative UMC churches waited, but due to COVID-19, the 2020 conference never happened. The General Conference meets every four years.
In 2021, a group of conservative UMC leaders announced the formation of a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church (GMC). The GMC launched on May 1, 2022, providing a home for churches desiring to leave the UMC.
The Georgia churches that were allowed to disaffiliate from the UMC are mostly from rural areas of the state, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. The official reason given for the vote allowing disaffiliation, as provided for by a special general conference in 2019, was “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.”
It has not been announced whether any of the 70 churches will be joining the GMC, remain independent, or disband entirely.
The UMC has approximately 13 million members, about equally divided between the United States and overseas, mostly in Africa. The overseas churches are generally more conservative than their American counterparts.
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