After the United Methodist Church (UMC) again delayed its General Conference and refused to settle the issue of LGBT inclusion and ordination, 70 churches in Georgia have decided they were tired of waiting and will disaffiliate from the nation’s third-largest Protestant denomination and join the Global Methodist Church (GMC).
The 2022 North Georgia Annual Conference voted to ratify the disaffiliation of 70 UMC churches on Thursday. Most churches were waiting for the General Conference to approve a separation proposal that would have established the process for who held to conservative views on LGBT issues to break away from the UMC, yet repeated delays prompted the churches to go ahead and leave.
The debate around LGBT issues has long been a source of conflict within the UMC. The General Conference was supposed to vote on a process for churches to leave the troubled denomination at the 2020 meeting, but that was delayed due to the COVID pandemic. The UMC continued to delay the General Conference and earlier this year decided once again to postpone the meeting until 2024.
Commission Chairperson Kim Simpson called the decision “an exceedingly difficult one,” explaining, “We engaged in a fair, thorough, integrity-filled discussion of the alternatives…. Ultimately our decision reflects the hope that 2024 will afford greater opportunity for global travel and a higher degree of protection for the health and safety of delegates and attendees.”
After the decision, the Global Methodist Church, a newly formed Methodist denomination that rejects the LGBT norms adopted and integrated by the UMC, announced that it would launch in May after previously saying it would wait for the General Conference.
“It is anticipated that some theologically conservative local churches will find annual conferences willing to negotiate fair and just exit provisions, while others will, unfortunately, face obstacles placed in their paths,” the new denomination said. “The Transitional Leadership Council decided it was time to launch the Global Methodist Church, so those who can leave early will have a place to land, to begin building and growing, and making room for others to join later.”
The UMC Book of Discipline bars the blessing of homosexual unions and ordination of homosexual ministers, but UMC leadership has not enforced the provision. Many liberal churches have embraced LGBT members and ministers and some have pushed for the denomination to update its views.
Keith Boyette, spokesman for the Global Methodist Church, said that the UMC had shown “an unwillingness to uphold its teachings.” He said some churches are in defiance of the teachings of the UMC. “The Church has become ungovernable as a consequence. Such unchecked defiance has destroyed the integrity of the Church.”
Boyette added, “With the defiance and disobedience in the leadership of the Church, they can’t be forced to leave. In light of this, theologically conservative leaders have decided to launch a new denomination that will be true to its doctrine and teachings and end this endless conflict within the United Methodist Church.”
It’s not just conservative churches that have left the UMC over the issue, as liberal churches that believe the denomination is not inclusive enough have disaffiliated as well.
The UMC shows that letting conflict go unresolved only makes things worse. The denomination’s refusal to take a stand on this issue has left both sides unhappy, and by dragging its feet on a process for churches to leave, it has only made the conflict worse.
The Bible is clear: Homosexuality is a sin and requires church discipline, not greater acceptance. Romans 1:27 instructs us that homosexuality is unnatural and shameful. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 tells us that those who practice homosexuality are lawbreakers and ungodly. Repeatedly throughout Scripture, such as in Mark 10:6-9, it is affirmed that God made male and female and that sexual relations are for a man and woman within the confines of marriage. Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2 also teach that church elders are to be the husband of one wife, leaving no room for same-sex relationships.
This is not to say that those who commit homosexuality should be treated poorly or that visitors cannot attend church or that members who struggle with homosexual attraction should be tossed from the Church. What it does say is that living an openly rebellious, homosexual lifestyle is sinful. Homosexuality and other sexual immorality have been normalized by the world, but that should not result in a call for celebration and inclusion by the Church but should be a call for contrition and apology by the sinner. In the context of those who are lost, that means it is a call to repentance and salvation. When those who are Christian refuse to repent of their sin, the Church must exercise church discipline.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 tells us that homosexuals (as well as fornicators, idolators, thieves, and other sinful people) will not inherit the kingdom of God. But that’s not the end of the story for those who repent, accept Christ as their personal savior, and ask Him to transform their hearts and lives. Verse 11 goes on to explain,
“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
The UMC should be proclaiming freedom through Christ and celebrating the miracle of salvation. Instead, it has allowed sin and a rejection of the Gospel to permeate its churches and now it is falling apart.
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