The United Methodist Church has lost 20% of U.S. congregations in schism over LGBTQ rules

More than 6,180 United Methodist congregations in the U.S. have been granted permission to leave the denomination in a schism that began in 2019 over the role of LGBTQ Methodists in the church and other theological issues, according to an unofficial tally kept by UM News. The bulk of the departures, 4,172, were approved in June, in the annual gatherings of United Methodist regional conferences. 

In all, about a fifth of United Methodist congregations have now opted to leave, The Associated Press reported. About half of those disaffiliated congregations have already joined the new, more socially conservative Global Methodist Church. The departures have been concentrated in the South and Midwest, including 708 congregations in Texas alone. This is the final year for churches to disaffiliate under a special process created in 2019.

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“I don’t think any of us want to see any of our churches leave,” Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops, told AP. “We’re called to be the body of Christ, we’re called to be unified. There’s never been a time when the church has not been without conflict, but there’s been a way we’ve worked through that.” He added that the UMC wishes “God’s blessing” on those congregations that want “to go and live out their Christian faith in a new expression.”

With many of the more socially and theological conservative congregations gone, the United Methodist Church’s 2024 General Conference is expected to debate proposals to change church laws to allow same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ people. The conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association said it will also push at the 2024 General Conference to create a mechanism for United Methodist congregations overseas to disaffiliate.

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