UMC Faces Unprecedented Exodus – 261 Churches Depart Over LGBTQ Policy

Amidst a profound divide on LGBTQ issues, 261 congregations in the United Methodist Church’s North Georgia Conference have decided to disaffiliate from the church. Here’s the whole story. 

Leaving the Church

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The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) recently accepted the decision of 261 congregations to leave the denomination due to differences over LGBTQ issues. 

“Conscience” Objections

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The departure stems from a 2019 national decision allowing congregations to leave by the end of 2023 based on “conscience” objections to changes in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality practices, ordination, or marriage. 

Change Brings Sadness

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Bishop Robin Dease, leader of the conference, expressed sadness, saying, “I just hate that those who are leaving us, I will not have the opportunity to meet or to be with.”

Religious Divides

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This development is part of a broader trend; as of early August 2023, over 6,000 U.S. UMC congregations have been approved for disaffiliation since 2019, reflecting a division within the second-largest Protestant denomination in the country.

“Solemn Day”

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The 261 departing churches represent a substantial portion of the nearly 700 churches in the North Georgia Conference. The conference describes the departure as a “solemn day.”

Point of Contention

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The disagreement over LGBTQ issues has been a long-standing contention within the UMC. After strengthening bans on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage in 2019, predictions of an inevitable split arose.

Earthquake of Faith

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Similar divisions have occurred in other mainline Protestant denominations, such as the American Baptist Churches USA, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church USA. 

100 Congregations

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Over 100 congregations in North Georgia had sued the conference for the right to disaffiliate, leading to a ruling that mandated a church-level vote before the deadline. 

End of November Deadline

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However, on Saturday, the requests of four Georgia congregations seeking disaffiliation were not ratified after discussion by the members of the Annual Conference. The departure of the remaining 261 churches is set to take effect at the end of November. 

The Work Continues

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Following this, approximately 440 North Georgia Conference churches will continue their mission, working to fulfill the objectives of the United Methodist Church in their communities and beyond. 

Change of Name

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Under the terms of the disaffiliation agreement, departing churches forfeit the use of the “United Methodist” name and logo. They must also fulfill financial obligations and are prohibited from pursuing further legal action against the conference.

Exit Stage South

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This recent wave of disaffiliation follows the exit of 193 congregations from the UMC South Georgia Conference in May, marking another chapter in the ongoing debate over LGBTQ issues within the church. 

Evolving Landscape

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The profound changes reflect the complexity of navigating conscience and church doctrine within a diverse and evolving religious landscape.

Historical Parallels

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The news led to much discussion online, with one commenter noting the historical parallels of the split, “Not the first time a major denomination has split over a social issue. Well, there’s a reason that the Southern Baptist Church is ‘Southern.’”

Driving People Away

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Another commenter lamented the decision and what they see as the general decline in religiosity, posting, “Christian pastors are crying out that fewer and fewer people are coming to church every year, and donations are drying up. Yet at the same time, they keep doing more and more to drive younger generations away from the religion and shrink their demographic.”

“Love (Some Of) Your Neighbors”

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Others online took the opportunity to joke about the split, with one user commenting “I’ve read the Bible all the way through, and I can’t find a place where Christ said, ‘love (some of) your neighbors.’”

The post UMC Faces Unprecedented Exodus – 261 Churches Depart Over LGBTQ Policy first appeared on Wealthy Living.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / 9nong. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.