Seth Udinski, FISM News
Late last week, Religion News Service (RNS) released a report revealing that 31 North Carolina-based United Methodist churches are seeking disaffiliation from the denomination in light of the nationwide schism in the church over the question of biblical sexuality.
This latest mass defection comes on the heels of a recent lawsuit set forth by roughly 100 Florida-based UMC churches. In both instances, conservative congregations are stepping away from the denomination — which in recent years has grown increasingly supportive of gay marriage and even homosexual clergy — as it seeks to delay what appears to be an inevitable formalized split at its next General Conference in 2024.
The RNS report indicates that the 31 North Carolina churches are also prepared to hash out their grievances in court if the denomination refuses to hear their requests. Indeed, the congregants have hired the same legal team that represented the Florida churches in preparation.
RNS further explained that lawsuits appear to be the weapon of choice for these congregations. The reason for this is many of these congregations, based in lightly populated and rural areas, want to make sure they are legally allowed to keep their church buildings and property.
Many of these churches are not well-funded, and a fracture from their denomination is also the equivalent of cutting off their monetary life source. Indeed, in many instances, the UMC has tried to claim the property of these defecting churches as its own, arguing that these assets belong to the denomination and not the individual congregation.
This effort from the UMC is based on a rule codified in the congregation’s last General Conference in 2019, which allowed churches seeking disaffiliation to leave by 2023, but not without paying two years’ worth of fees.
Scores of churches have flocked to the upstart Global Methodist Movement, which is quickly becoming a stable home denomination for conservative Methodists who wish to adhere to the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman.