36 United Methodist churches located in Iredell County, North Carolina, had filed a lawsuit seeking to disaffiliate themselves from the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church congregation.
According to WFMY News, however, the lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Richard L. Doughton of the Iredell County Superior Court. The conference had filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in January, arguing that involving the state in church business violated the religious protections that have been given by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Doughton agreed with the conference's argument and granted their motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The WNCC Expressed Gratitude
The Western North Carolina Conference (WNCC) has expressed gratitude for a recent ruling that reinforces the separation of church and state, particularly in matters that have already been resolved through The United Methodist Church's internal adjudicative process, according to Fox 8 WGHP.
The agreement that unites United Methodists worldwide to help and uphold one another for true discipleship and the ministry of Jesus Christ is emphasized in the WNCC statement.
It emphasizes that United Methodist congregations are not independent; rather, they hold their churches and real estate in trust for the benefit of the denomination and its different missions.
The WNCC, consisting of over one thousand local churches, fresh expressions, and campus ministries, works in collaboration with camps, retirement communities, food ministries, children's homes, and persons with disabilities across the western half of North Carolina. The statement quotes the apostle Paul, who reminds us that the body, though it comprises many members, is one, each member belonging to all the others.
According to another source, Religion News, the conference recently argued that the First Amendment prevents civil courts from becoming involved in religious debates that require an examination of religious doctrine and practice. They also argued that churches do not have standing because a regional association within the denomination does not have members.
It is unclear why the judge agreed to dismiss the case, but the Western North Carolina Conference was pleased.
In the Western North Carolina Conference, 41 United Methodist congregations have already been permitted to leave the denomination, and an additional 190 churches are expected to be approved for disaffiliation in May.
The National Center for Life and Liberty is representing 36 congregations who are suing to leave. David Gibbs III, the primary attorney, has previously filed a lawsuit on behalf of 100 congregations belonging to the Florida Annual Conference and is currently in negotiations with a number of other conferences. Gibbs remained silent for a while.
Also Read: Cornerstone Church Severs Ties with United Methodist Church Denomination
No Statement Yet Have Been Released by the Attorneys
The Charlotte Observer attempted to contact the lawyers representing 36 churches who did not respond regarding a lawsuit. Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.
Reverend James Howell, a long-time Myers Park United Methodist Church minister, expressed his embarrassment over the church's extensive debate on LGBTQ rights. He stated that most church members welcome everyone and do not judge or exclude others. The church strives to be welcoming and does God's work in the world.
Related Article: Asbury Church to Disaffiliate with United Methodist Church Due to Disagreement on LGBTQ+ Inclusion