More than 400 churches in Texas associated with The United Methodist Church (UMC) have voted to disaffiliate from the denomination, as the UMC moves towards affirming same-sex marriage and endorsing LGBTQ-identified clergy.
In votes held on Saturday, two regional UMC bodies — one in Houston, the other in Lubbock — granted approval for 439 churches across Texas to exit the denomination. That’s nearly half of all UMC churches in Texas.
Specifically, the Texas Annual Conference, meeting at First Methodist Houston West, approved plans for 294 of their 598 churches to disaffiliate; while the Northwest Texas Annual Conference special session, held at Lakeridge United Methodist Church in Lubbock, affirmed 145 of 201 churches would exit.
“We are incredibly sad that these churches have chosen to break connection with us,” said Hal Sharp, chair of the Texas Annual Conference Board of Trustees. “However, we have confirmed that they have met the requirements for disaffiliation and are properly before you today.”
Many of these congregations are expected to become affiliated with The Global Methodist Church, a denomination started by conservative Methodist leaders in the wake of the UMC’s drift towards a liberalized stance on LGBTQ issues.
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Some former UMC congregations, including two prominent churches in the Dallas area, plan to remain independent.
In a statement, newly renamed St. Andrew Methodist Church in Plano, with reportedly 6,500 members, affirmed their mission as creating “passionate disciples of Jesus.” Meanwhile, their lay leadership is “seeking partnerships and accountability with other like-hearted churches” while not planning to affiliate with a denomination at this time.
Similarly, White’s Chapel in Southlake, which has over 6,000 weekly attendance, exited the denomination last month and stated it seeks to uphold “Wesleyan Theology” and “Methodist traditions, rites, and rituals” as it moves forward.
Uniquely, the Southlake church plans to create a so-called Methodist Collegiate College to be a “healing agent” among divergent Methodist factions.
Substance of the Methodist split
The conflict has been years in the making. The UMC’s doctrinal statements, as reflected in the Book of Discipline, reflect historical theological views on the covenant of marriage — and its definition as between one man and one woman.
However, in practice, some UMC-affiliated clergy have not adhered to those doctrinal boundaries and leaders have not enforced any disciplinary response.
In May 2016, Karen Oliveto was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop in the UMC. Last year, Giovanni Arroyo was installed as general secretary of a UMC agency and has recently announced his candidacy as bishop in the church’s Northeastern Jurisdiction.
Answering questions in an official UMC publication, Arroyo stated what would be his priorities as bishop. “I will continue the work of dismantling systems, policies, and practices that have excluded my LGBTQIA++ siblings and me,” he wrote.
In response to these developments, John Lomperis of The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) based in Washington, D.C., questioned in a recent post if these leaders “represent most United Methodists in the pews.”
At the last General Conference in 2019, a statement was adopted which acknowledged “current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality.” It created a process for local churches to disaffiliate from the denomination.
Reportedly, over 1,500 former UMC churches nationwide have now disaffiliated. A denominational news site noted that leaders expect a 38% drop in overall funding in coming years due to the significant loss of members and major churches.
In a recent op-ed, Mark Tooley, president of the IRD and a leading conservative Methodist voice, predicted growth for the nascent Global Methodist Church.
“Most exiting churches, perhaps 80%-90%, are expected eventually to join the new Global Methodist Church . . . a conservative denomination (whose) bureaucracy, such as it exists, will be lean,” he wrote.
The United Methodist Church has announced the next meeting of its General Conference will be held April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Delegates to the global decision-making body are expected to take up a proposal to formally split the denomination.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.
5 thoughts on “Over 400 Texas Congregations Exit United Methodist Church Over LGBTQ Issues”
I’m a UMC Pastor currently leading 3 churches through this schism. If we were only talking about LGBTQ issues, there’d be no churches leaving. This has much more to do with UM leaders who don’t believe in the authority or reliability of scripture and the sovereign role of Jesus as Savior and Lord. Half of our UM seminary presidents are on record as saying that all faiths are valid pathways to salvation. 46 of of 53 Bishops oppose the Book of Discipline on sexuality, marriage, and ordination. We have 2 bishops married to same sex partners in defiance of the Book of Discipline. We have a bishop who said we shouldn’t make an idol out of Jesus, did away with the sacraments at her last church, and reportedly used tarot cards to lead devotions with her District Superintendents. The rot is deep.
John, thanks for providing specific examples of “the deep rot.” American Baptist Churches, mine included, have faced similar challenges, and our strategy, like yours, is not isolated to LGBTQ issues but instead affirms the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. Never glad to observe splits of individual congregations or entire denominations, but what you describe above certainly warrants separation after the UMC’s lengthy efforts at resolution.
Thanks for sharing John. Truly insane and disturbing stuff. I can only guess that those engaging in such behavior do so because they know the apostolic faith stands against them and they cannot abide that, so they deliberately set out to corrupt and destroy it.
Praise The Lord! It has long been time for a cleaving apart of Bible believing churches from the ungodly church/denomination.
Pastor John, I appreciate your insight. However, please explain how LGBTQ is Not related to the authority of Scripture!? LGBTQ is the primary weapon of the State against the Word of God and those who believe it to be God breathed and believe in Jesus!
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