A local chapter of the United Methodist Church (UMC) has successfully pushed for a vote that severs its ties with the mother church.
According to a report by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the Jonesboro First United Methodist Church (FUMC) managed to secure 944 Yes votes versus 412 No votes on whether the church should separate from the United States' second-largest Protestant group.
A Historic Vote
On Sunday, July 31, 2022, some 1,356 church members cast their votes at Wesley Hall.
The report said that the 944 votes in favor of separating from the mother church comprised the required two-thirds supermajority votes to ensure the motion's passage.
The same article revealed that the affirmative votes totaled 69.26%, with 909 votes needed to pass the motion for disaffiliation.
Before casting votes, organizers allowed five people from opposing sides to argue their case before the congregation.
Bishop Gary Mueller, UMC's Arkansas Conference overseer, handled the Sunday proceedings.
Mueller disclosed the results of the votes at 8 p.m., some three hours after they declared the activity open.
The bishop reportedly told the audience to withhold their reactions to the results before making the announcement.
When he did bare the votes' outcome, the report said the congregation fell silent.
"I know some will be happy and some will be very sad, but remember your brother and sister who was on the other side of the vote and remember that we care for their feelings," Mueller told the congregation.
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'No Hard Feelings'
Despite the results severing Jonesboro FUMC's ties with the mother church, Bishop Mueller essentially told the congregation there were no hard feelings.
Mueller vowed to work with UMC congregations that voted to disaffiliate from the church, saying he wants them to be in the place God intends.
The bishop likewise assured those who voted otherwise that they would protect the mother church's "legitimate interests," the report said.
"We will be walking with you and supporting you... We'll be exploring options and possibilities for you and up to the beginning of a new United Methodist Church if this is ratified by the annual conference," Mueller said.
How The Disaffiliation Motion Came To Be
A related news story by KAIT8 news website revealed that Jonesboro FUMC members have been mulling the idea of disaffiliating from the mother church for more than a year.
However, some church members stalled calling for a vote to help them think over the decision better.
The news report bared that the bold move resulted from a brewing internal debate over matters involving homosexuality.
With the results favoring the move to disaffiliate, Jonesboro FUMC had taken the first step in severing its link with the national church leadership of the Protestant church.
John Miles, the pastor of Jonesboro FUMC, said that majority of their church members voted in favor of the disaffiliation.
"Our Church voted by 69% to pursue disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church," he said.
Stay UMC Jonesboro, a group opposing the disaffiliation move, had expressed disappointment over the results.
"We are obviously disheartened and saddened that anyone would want to leave the UMC," the group said.
They described the entire disaffiliation process as "problematic and challenging."
"Our goal now is to be a resource to the Annual Conference should they have questions regarding the steps that were and were not followed," Stay UMC Jonesboro explained.
KAIT8 said that Jonesboro FUMC would now need to ratify the disaffiliation agreement with a simple majority (50%+1 of its Annual Conference).
When ratified, the disaffiliation would be final and executory.
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