Woodlands Methodist Church, a Texas megachurch with 14,200 members, voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC).
Almost 3,000 members gathered to vote, with more than 96% voting to leave our nation’s third-largest denomination. Senior Pastor Mark Sorensen said the church would continue to focus on its mission: Win people to Jesus Christ, disciple them in faith and help those in need.
Hundreds of Bible-believing churches are leaving the denomination after years of struggles over Scriptural truth and church discipline. Those spiritual and biblical concerns led to battles over abortion, homosexuality and transgenderism, with liberal churches claiming such practices were approved by God and the Bible.
That separation that took place at Woodlands is happening across the country:
- Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, voted in January to leave the UMC and joined the Free Methodist Church.
- In June, Bethel Church, with a membership of about 10,000, announced that it was leaving the UMC North Georgia Conference.
- That same month, the North Georgia Conference announced that 70 congregations would be leaving, representing about 9% of its member churches.
- Also in June, 35 Arkansas churches began the discernment process that could lead to leaving the UMC.
- In August, First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, a 1,300-member church in Arkansas, voted to leave the denomination.
- Churches in South Carolina are meeting to discuss disaffiliation.
- 106 Methodist churches in Florida are leaving the denomination.
- 210 Texas congregations are also considering a vote to leave the UMC.
The UMC began working toward a way to peacefully separate years ago, with a group of leaders putting forth a proposal in 2020 that would have allowed churches with a biblical view of sexuality and marriage to leave and form a new denomination.
The plan, “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation,” allowed churches to leave and join a new, conservative denomination, with a 57% majority required.
But COVID lockdowns intervened before the full conference could meet and vote on final ratification of the proposal. Despite life returning to normal for most of us, UMC General Conference Organizers kept pushing meeting dates further back, finally agreeing to have the event in 2024.
But many churches aren’t willing to wait that long.
Doctrinal disputes within Methodism date back to the turn of the last century, with some active ministers and bishops denying core church doctrines – and not being disciplined.
Those led to more recent battles over life and sexuality issues.
After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and said there was no constitutional right to abortion, “The United Methodist Council of Bishops, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist women’s group, and General Commission on Women in Society, and General Board of Global Ministries all denounced the court ruling, wrote Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
In other unbiblical moves, bishops and ministers blessed homosexual relationships, and conferences approved lesbian- and gay-identified ministers and bishops, defying Scripture and official UMC policy.
One conference voted to commission a “non-binary trans person,” another approved a female pastor who later had medical treatment to live as male, and a gay-identified male who performs in drag was recently certified as a candidate for ministry.
Although the original intent was for “Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation,” churches began leaving before the proposal was officially adopted, and a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, was launched in May.
Sadly, not all the disaffiliations have been grace-filled; some have involved acrimony, struggles over money, and court cases.
The 106 churches in Florida, for example, have filed a lawsuit against the UMC. Represented by the National Center for Life and Liberty, the suit explains that congregations have been able to leave the UMC for years, without being charged for church property and buildings.
Now, however, various UMC conferences are putting up a fight and charging churches to leave. Some of those churches were founded and built long before the formation of the UMC in 1968.
Mt. Bethel, the Georgia church that voted to leave, has agreed to pay $13.1 million to keep its property and assets. First United Methodist Church of Jonesboro, Arkansas, is looking at paying $650,000 to its conference.
Despite the cost and the lawsuits, Tooley writes, “Yes, liberation from an imploding denomination is a bargain at almost any price.”
He argues that the denomination has become bloated by bureaucracy, does not serve local congregations and the gospel, and “closes hundreds of churches annually.” He explains that churches have a short window of opportunity to leave and keep their properties.
Tooley encourages them to “join the new Global Methodist Church, or any other denomination” where they can work to proclaim the Gospel without interference from a dying denomination.”
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Photo from Twitter.