One-Fifth of United Methodist U.S. Congregations Leaving Over LGBTQ+ Issues
Author: Trudy Ring
The United Methodist Church stands to lose one-fifth of its U.S. congregations due to differences over LGBTQ+ issues and amid expectations that the church will become more supportive.
The denomination currently considers “the practice of homosexuality” to be “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and its official policy does not allow out LGBTQ+ clergy or perform same-sex marriages. But many congregations are defying those policies, and pro-LGBTQ+ changes are likely to be proposed at next year’s general conference.
Such changes — approval of out clergy and same-sex marriages — have been proposed but rejected for years, but the denomination, considering some differences irreconcilable, put forth a plan a few years ago to allow congregations to leave. Since 2019, 6,182 U.S. congregations, largely conservative ones in the South and Midwest, have received approval to leave the United Methodist Church, the Associated Press reports. Most of the departures — 4,172 — have come this year.
About 3,000 of the total are joining the Global Methodist Church, a new and conservative denomination, while some are joining other denominations or becoming independent, according to the AP.
“I don’t think any of us want to see any of our churches leave,” Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops, told the news service. “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.”
The departing congregations must pay the denomination for their properties and meet certain other financial obligations. While the separation plan is limited to the U.S. so far, the UMC intends to put a similar plan in place for overseas congregations.
When the church announced the plan in 2020, Bickerton said it had become clear that “the line in the sand” over LGBTQ+ issues “had turned into a canyon.”
The United Methodist Church is the third largest Christian denomination in the U.S., with 6.5 million members; only the Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist churches are larger. The Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for full participation of LGBTQ+ people in the UMC, has more than 1,000 congregations and 40,000 people as members worldwide.
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring