Megachurch splits from Methodist denomination

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


An Oklahoma megachurch recently split from its denomination, citing the larger church body’s liberal drift as the primary reason. It’s suspected the church might now throw its weight behind an emerging new denomination.

Asbury Church, formerly known as Asbury Methodist Church, boasts nearly 7000 members. Not only is Asbury one of the largest churches in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but it was also one of the largest churches within the Methodist denomination. However, in a March 28 statement, the church identified itself as a “traditional Wesleyan congregation.”

The conservative views of the church leaders, particularly on LGTB+ issues, have placed them at odds with the larger governance of the Methodist denomination. “Because of the slow and steady drift” of the denomination, Asbury announced their disaffiliation.

“We do not know where or when we will affiliate with a new denomination. Currently, our main focus is protecting the assets and interests of Asbury and fully disaffiliating from the UMC,” the statement continued. Asbury’s transition team retained legal aid specialized in protecting the assets and interests of a church undergoing denominational disaffiliation for this purpose.

The megachurch’s departure is a strong message to a denomination that continues to ignore parts of scripture to create an environment they falsely label “love.” It also represents the consequences of when global church leaders fail to listen and respond to their laypeople’s concerns. A vote summary at the end of Asbury’s statement shows there were nearly 1600 “yes” votes compared to “48” no votes.

Asbury transition team chairman Jeff Wilkie stated that Asbury’s departure has been in planning for three years already, making it far from a hasty decision. In fact, in 2019 Asbury hosted a conference attended in person by 1000 individuals and broadcasted to 89 other locations on the subject of a scriptural view of marriage and sexuality. Yet the Methodist denomination has continued to slide to the left.

Wilkie said at a recent meeting, “Our denomination is at a crossroads. Some in the United Methodist Church insist we should change some of the traditional positions dealing with the issues of sexuality.”

As a representative of Asbury’s team, Wilkie said, “We believe the real issue is not about sexuality. It’s about how we view Scripture.”

Although the church wrote that they did not “know where or when” they would join a new denomination, the transition team itself hinted at joining the Global Methodist Church. This conservative and multi-national Wesleyan branch is set to launch in May. Like Asbury, their beliefs affirm that a marriage covenant should be “between one man and one woman.”

 “We are saddened by all expressions of sexual behavior…that do not recognize the sacred worth of each individual,” the denominational leaders wrote in their next point, adding they were also saddened by sexual behaviors that “represent less than God’s intentional design for His children.”

“Whatever happens, we will retain Asbury’s identity as a Scripturally focused and doctrinally faithful congregation,” the transition team concluded.