The Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church had approved on Nov. 19 the application to disaffiliate by 35 churches while thumbing down the request of three congregations.
Details of the Decision
According to a UM News report, the special session of the Arkansas Conference was emotional, given the sheer number of churches whose application to break away from the denomination had been greenlit.
The congregations that got the conference's thumbs up successfully secured the required two-thirds of their members favoring the move to detach from the UMC fold.
For the 35 congregations that had the OK, the decision was a welcome one. Still, for the three congregations that did not get the conference's approval, it would mean another day to prove their case.
The three congregations that failed to secure the all-clear to disaffiliate from UMC included the Cabot United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church (FUMC) of Jonesboro, and Searcy First United Methodist Church.
Bishop Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference explained some points about the disaffiliation process to UM News.
"What happened was people voted, and this is going to sound trite, but they voted their heart about whether they felt a church should disaffiliate," he told UM News.
For the three congregations whose bid to disaffiliate was thumbed down by the conference despite also getting the needed number of votes from their members, Mueller lamented that it's a bit of a gray area.
"I would assume they have the right to resubmit the disaffiliation agreement or they have a right to go through the process again. We're kind of in uncharted territory," Mueller explained.
The Curious Case of FUMC Jonesboro
FUMC Jonesboro, despite managing to get the required two-thirds approval to disaffiliate, sadly failed to get the nod of the conference members.
The Rev. John Miles had issued a video message telling his congregation they did not get the approval they had hoped for from the Arkansas Conference.
"That's very discouraging, but y'all it's not the end of the line. "There's much more we can do. And we'll regroup and we'll think about it. When we get back from Thanksgiving, we'll get together with our administrative board, we'll get your input and we'll begin to look at our options for what's next," Miles explained in his recorded message.
UM News bared that FUMC Jonesboro secured a 69% vote favoring the disaffiliation, the closest vote among all congregations seeking to sever ties with the denomination.
Christianity Daily had earlier reported about FUMC Jonesboro's bid to break away from the Methodist Church.
The church said it arrived at a decision after being dissatisfied with how the denomination handles sexuality-related matters, such as administering same-sex weddings and ordaining confessed homosexuals.
Critics of the FUMC Jonesboro's decision argued that the leadership rushed the move, claiming that they "do not know who as a member of the church, we do not how many people were added last minute."
Stay UMC Jonesboro, the group opposing the move to break away from the Methodist fold, issued a statement a day after the conference decision was announced.
"We give thanks today for a vote that recognized the concerns raised about the disaffiliation process at First UMC Jonesboro.... We look forward to the opportunity to start afresh united together in our spiritual home to make disciples of Jesus and love one another," UM News quoted the group saying.