More than 4,000 congregations have left the United Methodist Church (UMC) this year over its embrace of LGBTQ+ ideology, Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported this week.
Just the past weekend, 60 congregations left the UMC in Michigan, as did 250 in Kentucky. By Tuesday afternoon 4,876 Methodist churches completed the process to break away from the UMC, Jay Therrell, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a leader in the “disaffiliation” movement, told CNA.
“According to UM News, the official news-gathering agency of the UMC, 4,645 churches officially split from the UMC so far this year. That is more than double the number of churches that left in the previous year (2,003) and almost 10 times the number in 2021 (486),” according to the report, which noted that nearly one-quarter of UMC congregations have officially broken away within the last five years.
Therrell told the outlet that “the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Christ” has “deteriorated for many, many years in the United Methodist Church, and that problem is “playing out in the issue of human sexuality.”
He added that many of the disaffiliated churches are choosing to join Global Methodist Church, which is more theologically conservative. The Wesleyan Covenant Association helped found the Global Methodist Church in 2022 and has amassed 2,500 congregations, according to the report.
“We absolutely believe that the United Methodist Church is drifting day by day ever more progressive,” Therrell said. “We have bishops all across the globe who are completely violating the Book of Discipline. They are allowing all sorts of things to happen that violate various paragraphs, much of it to do with human sexuality.”
The infighting over LGBTQ+ issues “erupted in full force in 2019” after the General Conference of the UMC debated whether to promote homosexuality in the church. While the idea was scrapped 53 percent to 46 percent in favor of promoting traditional marriage and heterosexuality, the UMC still “steered the church toward the left on key social issues such as LGBTQ+ ideology,” the report states.
The UMC’s website reportedly states that “Everyone is welcome to worship and actively participate in the life of our churches” and that “laypersons may become members and live out their faith through their local church without respect to sexual orientation or practice.” The website also reportedly states that the denomination may shift its teaching on LGBTQ+ issues in the future.
“In the United States, the UMC is divided into five “jurisdictions.” Each of these jurisdictions passed similar measures in 2022 stating that “LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered” in the church, according to the report, which cited the AP. “Of the 46 active UMC bishops, two are openly homosexual, despite official UMC policy denying the ordination of LGBTQ+ persons.”
Therrell said the pro-LGBTQ+ resolutions show where the UMC is headed in the future.
“We think it is highly likely at the General Conference in 2024 that the definition of marriage will change, that the ordination standards will change, and that most of the traditional provisions we’ve passed in recent years will be repealed,” he said.