In the latest wave of departures from the United Methodist Church, the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church voted last week to approve the disaffiliation of another 46 churches. It was the conference’s second such vote this year.
The last vote, held in April, resulted in the disaffiliation of 55 churches, with a total of 30,000 congregants — 15% of the conference’s total membership. The conference estimates the value of assets held by the departing churches to be in the ballpark of $36 million.
These two votes bring the total number of disaffiliations from the Florida Conference to 120 since last year.
The most recent disaffiliations come in response to the conference approving the ordination of three openly gay clergy in June 2023.
This groundswell of church departures from the United Methodist Church is not relegated just to Florida. Since 2019, around 2,400 churches have disaffiliated from the UMC nationwide, according to the United Methodist News Service. As of spring 2023, 6% of churches have chosen to disaffiliate.
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The majority of departing churches — at least 2,000 of them — have joined the more conservative Global Methodist Church. The GMC launched in spring 2022 in response to the growing chasm within the UMC over LGBTQ+ issues.
There will likely continue to be a significant number of disaffiliations between now and the end of the year due to stipulations of disaffiliation rules laid out in 2019, which specify that congregations wishing to leave over “reasons of conscience” must do so before Dec. 31, 2023.
The departures don’t come without pain. Pastor Marc O’Neal summarized the thoughts of many in the UMC when he told the Coastland Times, “It hurts my heart that we’ve gotten to this point yet at the same time I do recognize that for churches to flourish is probably necessary. Whether churches decide to stay or go I just pray that all of us learn to put this behind us and move forward in doing Kingdom work.”
This article originally appeared at MinistryWatch.
Daniel Ritchie is a contributor to MinistryWatch.