The majority of churches who have announced schism with the UMC cite disagreements on gay marriage and LGBT ordination
By Timothy H.J. Nerozzi
One-fifth of United Methodist Church (UMC) congregations in the United States have received approval to schism from the wider denomination.
More than 6,000 congregations have separated from the governing conference, dropping substantial amounts of money to buy out of the UMC.
“I don’t think any of us want to see any of our churches leave,” said president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops, Thomas Bickerton.
He continued, “We’re called to be the body of Christ, we’re called to be unified. There’s never been a time when the church has not been without conflict, but there’s been a way we’ve worked through that.”
Approximately 6,182 congregations have cut their ties with the UMC as of July 2023, according to the United Methodist News Service.
The majority of these break-off churches are doing so out of dissatisfaction with the United Methodist Church’s continued delay in conclusively ruling on the status of homosexual marriage and ordination for LGBT individuals.
In 2019, the General Conference voted 438-384 to uphold the church’s ban on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex weddings.
However, the conference has repeatedly delayed action formally splitting the denomination along theological lines, frustrating conservatives demanding reaffirmation of orthodox teachings on sexuality.
The flood of disaffiliations, mostly from conservative congregations, began after the same General Conference in 2019 approved Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline, a church law that allows UMC churches to leave with their church property if they obtain the approval of two-thirds of their congregation and their regional governing body.
Churches wanting to leave are also required to pay their share of clergy pension liabilities and two years of “apportionments” for the larger denomination, under the church law that expires later this year.
Many of the departing churches are joining the newly formed Global Methodist Church or remaining non-denominational.
Hundreds of the churches attempting to disaffiliate have faced legal or financial hurdles as the UMC has demanded large sums to maintain their property, which has led to legal battles in some states, according to the Christian Post.
Fox News’ Jon Brown contributed to this report.