November 19, 2023
Congregations are leaving the United Methodist Church in protest against LGBTQ restrictions.
Hundreds of churches are leaving the United Methodist Church, and as an critical deadline nears, more are expected to part ways.
In July, NPR reported that the Methodist Church had lost about 20% of its enrolled churches over disputes about same-gender marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy. At the time, many of the the congregations that split from the church were doing so because they disagreed with the lack of enforcement on conservative stances that the church was taking. According to CBS News, a majority of the 6,000 Methodist congregations who have departed the church are conservative.
In contrast to this, Kimberly Scott, who at the time was the pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, described what motivated her fight as a queer woman to NPR, saying, “My family were Methodists in the South. So we were Methodist when Methodist were OK with slavery, right? And my family never left. And so I was like, I can’t leave over this. If my grandparents stayed, then I can stay through this to see this to the end.”
In a continuation of that schism, CNN reports that 261 churches in Georgia will be leaving the denomination ahead of the United Methodist Church’s December 2023 deadline. The churches decision to walk away from the Methodist denomination is in accordance with a rule that the National Methodist Church put into place that declared congregations have until the end of 2023 to leave for a conscientious objection to any church rules changes “related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
Christianity Today reported that the churches who are looking to leave the Methodist Church are looking to take any route they can over staying with the church amid their doctrinal disagreements. Typically, individual congregants, according to Scott Field, the leader of the Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association, will leave on their own if they feel like their church is moving too slowly. Field also says that sometimes those congregants will start new churches or they will join an existing church that fits their political leanings. Of course, another issue at the center of these disagreements is money.
To leave the church, according to Christianity Today, churches are required to pay unfunded pension liabilities, and some churches may be required to pay a third or up to half of the value of a church’s assets by a church conference’s board of trustees.
The North Georgia group of churches elected to sue the conference in March so they could bring the conference leadership to the bargaining table. According to CNN, a judge in Georgia’s Cobb County ruled that a church-level vote had to take place before the Methodist Church’s deadline expires ahead of the North Georgia Conference’s vote to accept the exit of 261 churches from the United Methodist Church. 
According to CBS News, churches have until December to decide if they will stay or leave the United Methodist Church, but in 2024, there will be an opportunity for the church to modernize its laws. Alternatively, those who left may choose to join the Global Methodist Church which was formed in May 2022 and it firmly upholds its rules against LGBTQ+ ordination and marriage. Another option is for the United Methodist Church to split its rules about LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination between regions.
According to a study from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, the majority of churches who are leaving are concentrated in Southern states. Keith Boyette, a theological conservative who is overseeing the Global Methodist Church’s transitional period, told CBS News, “We decided that it was better to let the United Methodist Church go than to continue in what I would refer to as a cage fight, in which we would fight each other until we’re a bloody pulp and the church would be destroyed,” Boyette said. “I have grief that the church was not able to find its way to make decisions and abide by them that would be honoring of who the church is.”
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