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One fourth of United Methodist churches in US have left in schism over LGBTQ ban. What happens now?

by Andrew Wright
4 comments
Methodist Schism

Approximately 25% of congregations within the United Methodist Church in the United States have been granted permission to depart from the denomination following a five-year window, which is now coming to a close. This period allowed congregations to leave due to disputes related to the church’s policies concerning LGBTQ individuals. In the current year alone, 5,641 congregations have received approval from their regional conferences to separate from the denomination, making it a total of 7,658 since 2019. This final round of regional voting, which recently took place in the Texas Annual Conference, marked the conclusion of this process.

The majority of these departing congregations lean toward a conservative stance, citing perceived failures within the United Methodist Church to enforce prohibitions on same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly LGBTQ individuals. As the new year unfolds, further changes are anticipated in response to this schism.

The United Methodist Church, which until recently ranked as the third-largest denomination in the United States, is now undergoing a historic transformation. Many departing congregations have chosen to align with the more conservative Global Methodist Church, while others are exploring options such as joining smaller denominations, becoming independent entities, or still contemplating their course of action.

The denomination’s rules currently prohibit same-sex marriage ceremonies and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” However, progressive Methodist churches and regional governing bodies in the U.S. have increasingly been in defiance of these regulations, leading to the mobilization of like-minded conservative congregations seeking separation. The Global Methodist Church has expressed its commitment to enforcing these rules.

The departure process has brought about mixed emotions within the United Methodist leadership. Bishop Thomas Bickerton, President of the United Methodists’ Council of Bishops, expressed sadness over losing congregations and described the debates within the church as challenging. He also noted that some advocating for church disaffiliation used misleading information.

While the schism has created uncertainty regarding the exact number of individual members leaving the UMC, it is clear that some of the largest congregations have chosen to depart. This development has prompted UMC officials to prepare for significant budget reductions in denominational agencies due to anticipated lower revenue resulting from fewer congregations.

It is worth noting that the United Methodist Church has a substantial global presence, with 7 million members overseas, primarily in Africa. In 2019, a legislative gathering voted to reinforce bans on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination, with support coming from conservative groups in the U.S. and overseas. However, the upcoming legislative General Conference in 2023 is expected to consider lifting these bans, along with proposals for decentralization and providing overseas churches with the option to leave under similar provisions as U.S. churches.

The Global Methodist Church has been actively registering congregations, both former UMC churches and new ones organized by former United Methodists. It has also extended its reach to other countries where United Methodist churches or individuals have left the denomination.

Despite the complexities of this schism, the hope remains that all congregations will find their desired path and continue to uphold their beliefs and missions. The personal toll of this separation is significant, impacting relationships and communities that have been part of the United Methodist tradition for generations. The future of the United Methodist Church will undoubtedly involve strategic decisions to ensure that its message of grace, hope, joy, love, and justice continues to be heard and embraced.

This article is a comprehensive overview of the recent developments within the United Methodist Church, highlighting the reasons for the schism, its impact on congregations, and the potential paths forward as the denomination faces a period of transformation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Methodist Schism

What led to the schism in the United Methodist Church?

The schism in the United Methodist Church was primarily driven by disputes over the church’s LGBTQ-related policies. A significant portion of congregations, primarily conservative-leaning, felt that the denomination was not effectively enforcing bans on same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly LGBTQ individuals.

How many congregations have left the United Methodist Church?

As of the end of the five-year window for departures, approximately 7,658 congregations have received permission to leave the United Methodist Church since 2019. In the most recent year, 5,641 congregations obtained approval for departure.

What is the Global Methodist Church?

The Global Methodist Church is a more conservative alternative to the United Methodist Church. Many departing congregations have chosen to align with it. The Global Methodist Church is committed to enforcing rules against same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination.

What changes can be expected in the United Methodist Church in the coming years?

The future of the United Methodist Church remains uncertain. The upcoming legislative General Conference in 2023 is expected to consider lifting bans on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination. Proposals for decentralization and allowing overseas churches to leave under similar provisions as U.S. churches will also be on the agenda.

What is the global presence of the United Methodist Church?

The United Methodist Church has a substantial global presence with 7 million members overseas, primarily in Africa. It is the largest religious group in terms of geographic coverage in the United States, having at least one church in 95% of U.S. counties.

How has the schism affected individual members and congregations?

The schism has had a personal toll, impacting relationships and communities within the United Methodist Church. Some of the largest congregations have chosen to depart, prompting UMC officials to prepare for budget reductions. The future may involve strategic decisions to maintain a presence in various regions.

What are the hopes for the future of the United Methodist Church?

Despite the challenges of the schism, there is hope that all congregations will find their desired path and continue to uphold their beliefs and missions. Some anticipate that the 2024 General Conference may open ordination and marriage rites to LGBTQ persons, realizing a decades-long goal for certain groups within the denomination.

More about Methodist Schism

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4 comments

Seeker27 December 16, 2023 - 5:00 pm

where they goin’ tho? sum joinin’ Global Methodist Church, others goin’ indie, choices everywhere!

Reply
MethodistMan December 17, 2023 - 12:13 am

this sad, these churches been together so long, but dem LGBTQ rules causin’ big trouble.

Reply
FaithfulOne December 17, 2023 - 2:25 pm

dis really changin’ da church, big conference comin’ up, we’ll see what happens next!

Reply
Reader23 December 17, 2023 - 2:41 pm

wow, this big fight in da church cuz of LGBTQ stuff, whoa! lotsa congregations leavin’, like thousands yo!

Reply

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