Seventy congregations decided to leave the United Methodist Church due to the ongoing debate on homosexuality.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) recently lost 70 churches in Georgia due to the denomination's divide over homosexuality. The said denomination is marked by Fox News as the "latest in a growing divide within the third-largest Protestant denomination in the United States."
An announcement made by the UMC North Georgia Conference last Thursday that 70 congregations, representing 9% of churches and 3% of its members chose "disaffiliation."
The said disaffiliation will commence on June 30, 2022.
The UMC Is Known For Being Progressive
According to The Christian Post, the majority of the 70 congregations who left the UMC are expected to join the Global Methodist Church (GMC), a conservative alternative as a response to the UMC. Some congregations might stay independent, and some might be dissolved.
The UMC has been known for being progressive and less traditional in terms of theology and handling church services, but many of the congregations disagree with changing doctrine to become more accommodating to the LGBTQ stance.
Pastors, Bishops Hopeful for Unity and Peace with Their Respective Congregations
Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson and the members of the Annual conference prayed for the departing churches:
"Bless these congregations as they depart. I pray that we will be partners in ministry and you will do your mighty work of healing division and overcoming rifts."
Sybil Davidson, the Conference communications director said, according to a local news channel WSB-TV, "Our denomination has a clear process for disaffiliation and we are walking alongside the churches that want to take this path."
Davidson said that they are committed to a clear and healthy process with the transition, while they do not wish too their congregation or any church to disaffiliate.
Their hearts are to those who will stay in their congregation and also to those who will choose to leave.
Davidson continued by saying that it is painful to see divisions in the church, but their prayer is that above all what's happening that the ministry of all congregations and churches will be fruitful and serve God well.
The United Methodist Church will continue in becoming salt and light by being "agents of reconciliation" in a divided world, Davidson said.
Ebenezer United Methodist Church pastor Rev. Glenn Hannigan served in their congregation since 2010 and spoke with the said local news channel that he was in Athens when the voting in North Georgia Conference commenced.
He said, "We weren't willing to lose anybody. We are called to stand together and be united, "That's what is so heartbreaking with us, is that we are perceived as being anti-gay or anti-LGBT. That's just disingenuous." Hannigan added.
In one interview with Rev. Hannigan via 11Alive, the pastor is hopeful that this move would bring his congregation even closer and united.
He said that the disaffiliation was a painful decision in the church, but the joy was there because they were together and there was a sense of relief as they were united in making the decision.
As far as Hannigan is concerned, however, they're not going to lose their members.