UMC’s North Georgia Conference Blocks Church Departures

By Kathryn Post and Emily Miller
methodist church exit nc North Georgia confessing conservative group
A congregation affiliated with the United Methodist Church. (Photo via Wesleyan Covenant Assoc.)

A regional body of the United Methodist Church in Georgia will temporarily block member churches from leaving the denomination, citing the spread of “defamatory” misinformation about the United Methodist Church and its disaffiliation procedure.

In an email sent Wednesday, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church announced a “pause” on disaffiliations in the region until the United Methodist Church’s global decision-making body, the General Conference, meets in 2024.

The North Georgia Conference said in the email its leadership is committed to “the concept of the gracious exit,” but claimed that, “information presented to members of local churches about disaffiliation has been outside the bounds of normal and acceptable civil discourse. It has not only been false and misleading but has been antithetical to the concept of a gracious exit or a commitment to honoring the mission and ministry of all Christians.”

Wednesday’s email did not name specific churches or groups responsible for disseminating misinformation, but it said clergy have crafted websites, videos, printed materials and PowerPoint presentations that signify a “breach of integrity.”

Among the examples it gave are clergy holding secret meetings or giving unapproved presentations at churches other than their own. The email said these clergy have suggested that the United Methodist Church no longer believes in the resurrection or divinity of Christ, has changed the Apostle’s Creed and will force churches to host same-sex weddings and receive gay pastors, among other things.

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“With just 15 months until the next session of the United Methodist General Conference, which will be held April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, North Carolina, this pause will allow churches to gain more information about the real, rather than the false or hypothetical, future of our church,” the email said.

The announcement from the North Georgia Conference comes as the United Methodist Church splinters, largely over differing beliefs regarding the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.

Delegates were expected to take up a proposal to split the denomination at the 2020 General Conference meeting, originally scheduled for May 5 to 15, 2020, in Minneapolis, but twice delayed because of concerns about COVID-19 — first to August 2021, then to summer 2022. After a third delay, announced earlier this year, some United Methodist launched the Global Methodist Church, a new, conservative denomination, rather than wait two more years for the outcome of a vote on a possible split.

Some churches already have left the United Methodist Church, following a process to disaffiliate from their regional annual conferences that was approved by a 2019 special session of the General Conference.

In June, the North Georgia Conference ratified the disaffiliation of 70 of its churches. More than 100 churches in Florida and 38 in North Carolina are suing United Methodist regional bodies in coordination with the National Center for Life and Liberty as they vie for immediate departure.

North Georgia UMC
The districts of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. (Image courtesy of NGUMC)

Some departing churches are joining the Global Methodist Church. Others have chosen to remain independent.

The North Georgia Conference isn’t the first to express concern about misinformation.

In his first official address as president of the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops, this summer, Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York Annual Conference called out conservative groups for divisive rhetoric and “accusations and statements that are just not true.”

Kathryn Post and Emily McFarlan Miller are national reporters for Religion News Service.

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10 thoughts on “UMC’s North Georgia Conference Blocks Church Departures”

  1. There may be inaccurate information being spread by some folks about the situation. It wouldn’t surprise me. But I don’t trust the leadership of the Methodist Church either.

  2. I am a United Methodist pastor intimately aware of the machinations in our denomination.

    The significance of the decision to block disaffiliation is profound. The disaffiliation process will cease to exist at the end of 2023. It was a temporary provision added to the Book of Discipline in 2019 to allow progressive churches to leave the denomination after it voted, again, to uphold an orthodox Christian view of sexuality and marriage.

    Blocking church departures until 2024 means that those churches simply cannot leave. The only available option will be for them to close their doors, surrender their buildings and bank accounts to the Conference, take their congregations and walk away.

    I am not in the N Georgia Conference, but the leaders in my conference say similar things to Bishop Halpert-Johnson, and it beggars belief.

  3. Another comment. You (The Roy’s Report) consistently present this as a group leaving the church rather than wait on another vote, and I consistently point you to the 2023 deadline for churches to leave. It’s really significant that you leave that part out.

    Effectively, after spring 2023 (the deadline for conference business to be submitted in most of our 53 conferences), it will no longer be possible for a church to leave. Period. Any church that sees the election of LGBTQ Bishops and ordination of LGBTQ clergy in open defiance of our Book of Discipline can see the writing on the wall; the wolves have control of the flock.

    The rules on ordination and marriage WILL change in 2024, but there will not be a new pathway for churches wishing to depart, only more headlines like this one where conferences seize assets and force faithful members to leave in ones and twos. They’d rather be vindicated by holding a husk of a church.

  4. Thomas A Robinson

    As a former life long United Methodist, this split or these splits have been decades in the making. The crowd at the top of the denomination has been swinging to the extreme left, and attempting to drag the rest of its membership with it. John Wesley would be preaching against such heresy on every possible tree stump, given the chance. And, the N. GA Conference of the UMC values its own continuation – as does church hierarchy – more than Bible truth, and doctrine. When 2/3 or 3/4 of the churches leave the UMC, there will be little need for all the fat at the top of that food chain.

    If the N. GA UMC Conference has already allowed 100 churches to leave, they really have nothing to hold them back from granting others to leave, too. Such a break should grant those leaving a real chance to experience freedom in faith, opportunity to grow and grow in truth. Blessings, Ya’ll.

    1. John Wesley said:

      “I am now, and have been from my youth, a member and a minister of the Church of England. And I have no desire nor design to separate from it till my soul separates from my body. Yet if I was not permitted to remain therein without omitting what God requires me to do, it would then become meet, and right, and my bounden duty to separate from it without delay. To be more particular, I know God has committed to me a dispensation of the gospel. Yea, and my own salvation depends upon preaching it: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” If then I could not remain in the church without omitting this, without desisting from the gospel, I should be under a necessity of separating from it, or losing my own soul. In like manner, if I could not continue to unite with any smaller society, church, or body of Christians, without committing sin, without lying and hypocrisy, without preaching to other doctrines which I did not myself believe, I should be under an absolute necessity of separating from that society. And in all these cases the sin of separation, with all the evils consequent upon it, would not lie upon me, but upon those who constrained me to make that separation by requiring of me such terms of communion as I could not in conscience comply with.”

      from,

      United Methodists at the End of the Mainline”

      http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9806/articles/abraham.html

      Galatians 1:

      8 But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! —NET

      John Wesley would have disassociated from the present United Methodist Church years ago!

  5. As a former United Methodist pastor, what the [soon to be former bishop], Sue Haupert-Johnson has done will only provide more fuel to the fire of churches wishing to leave and to point to the abusive power held by United Methodist Bishops. At the end of the day, I would expect a complaint to the Judicial Council to be filed with a request for an expedited response to seek the reveal of this action by this singular bishop.

    This is a bishop who has shown in other situations that she will use the office and power of the bishop in ways to attempt to control others and local congregations. The North Georgia Conference has already spent significant dollars in legal fees while dealing with Mt. Bethel and others.

    There is the possibility, however, that the new incoming bishop as of January 1st, 2023 may reverse this decision. The new bishop is not bound by Bishop Haupert-Johnson’s ruling in this matter. Bishop Drease may take a different course in dealing with churches seeking to withdraw.

    One other note – Bishop Haupert-Johnson has been assigned as of January 1st to the Virginia Conference as Bishop – her leadership of North Georgia sends a message of heavy handed abuse by the bishop. Pray for that conference as they must now deal with a bishop who doesn’t understand the beatitude of “blessed are the meek!” She is a person who has demonstrated that power is not under control.

  6. I still struggle to understand how the churches that adhere to and properly understand the authority of Scripture are the ones needing to leave the denomination. They aren’t the ones ignoring the will of the global church and defying their own book of discipline!

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