Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
The debate over homosexuality has long been a contentious one in Methodist circles. Now, as more liberal practitioners in the United Methodist Church seem poised to officially soften the denomination’s stance, a large chunk of Florida churches have announced they are joining a new conservative denomination.
As first reported by the Christian Post, the Wesley Covenant Association – Florida announced via its Facebook account that 107 Florida UMC churches were joining the Global Methodist Church, which was officially launched six days ago as a conservative alternative for Methodist congregations that wish to avoid such practices as the blessing of gay marriages or the ordination of LGBT clergy.
Ironically, in a split that is occurring over the matter of diversity, the departing churches, which represent about 20 percent of all Florida Methodist congregations, are comprised of “Anglo, African American, Latino, Korean, and other ethnic communities of faith.”
Strictly speaking, the United Methodist Church still teaches that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity and does not allow for the blessing of a same-sex marriage or for LGBT people to serve as clergy. However, farther left congregations already flout these rules and are expected to soon have the votes required to permanently change the UMC’s stance.
“We are not leaving The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has left us,” Jay Therrell, President of the WCA – Florida, said in the post. “After a decades-long rise of theological liberalism, the selective enforcement of our denominational laws, and a strong surge in the promotion of partisan politics, our churches long for the day of being able to unite with like-minded Christians who focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus and help people to be transformed by His salvation.”
While he did not address the departure of the 107 churches specifically, Bishop Ken Carter wrote in a recent letter to Florida congregations, “The departure of a United Methodist Church from our denomination, or the withdrawal of United Methodist clergy from the ministerial office are connectional acts that take place through accountability to the annual conference with the actions of the board of trustees, the cabinet and the board of ordained ministry, each carefully honoring the rights and responsibilities of the gifts of God that we steward … No significant changes occur in our relationship apart from the actions of these authorized bodies.”
The issue of LGBT recognition long ago fractured the United Methodist Church, but the denomination has managed to avoid tearing apart by punting on key votes.
This hasn’t stopped liberal congregations from proceeding as though the policy was already changed, or from engaging in and endorsing liberal political campaigns.
In its statement, the WCA complained that Florida UMC churches has engaged in “an intentional strategy of pushing partisan politics into the life of the church including the extremely expensive campaign of purchasing full-page ads in many of the daily newspapers across Florida prior to the 2020 presidential elections, taking polarizing positions related to domestic political events, and on the first day of Holy Week 2022 celebrating the partisan confirmation of a Supreme Court justice instead of encouraging people in ways to observe the events of the most important and holiest week of the Christian year.”
But leaving is easier said than done in the Florida United Methodist Church. Therrell said the departing churches are being asked to pay exorbitant exit fees or surrender their property to the denomination.
“Our churches and pastors have exhibited decades of faithfulness, our leadership has not,” Therrell said. “Instead of letting us go, they seek to harm us further by trying to take our churches’ property and charging exorbitant exit fees. They want our churches to ‘buy-out’ by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars. Our largest churches must pay millions. What is Christian about that?”
Therrell added, “We pray the leadership of the Florida Conference will follow Jesus’ teachings by blessing us and allowing us to depart amicably, without paying backbreaking amounts of money that would close or cripple most churches.”