• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

What Next When NC Churches Leave United Methodists?


Hymnals and Bibles sit in pews during a service at Elizabeth Street United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Durham, NC

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The United Methodist Church has been at odds over whether to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy since the denomination banned them in the 1972 Book of Discipline.

Some traditionalist members, frustrated by the leadership’s lack of commitment to banning and preventing the blessing of same-sex unions in the church, announced this year that they would secede a new denomination, the more conservative Global Methodist Church. They invited like-minded United Methodist congregations to join them.

The process may vary slightly from one area to another across the country, but at the two United Methodist Conferences in North Carolina – one in the eastern part of the state and one in the west – some churches have begun the work of quitting. They plan to join the Global Methodist Church or another denomination or become non-denominational.

Last Saturday, the North Carolina Conference, which covers the eastern half of the state, approved the resignation requests of about a third of its churches.

Here you will find answers to some frequently asked questions.

Was this separation to be expected?

The United Methodist Church had expected the denomination to split over the issue of how to deal with homosexuality, and in 2019 issued rules for quitting conscientious objectors on the issue.

For this reason, and in accordance with these rules, while any United Methodist church could withdraw from the denomination at any time, this allows the churches to retain their buildings and property that would otherwise be held in trust by the denomination.

How does the conference deal with LGBTQ issues now?

The United Methodist Church Disciplinary Book does not permit the ordination of gay and lesbian ministers and does not permit marriages except between a man and a woman. However, pastors in both North Carolina United Methodist conferences have performed same-sex marriages.

Traditionalists in the church want the leadership of the denomination to follow the Book of Discipline, saying it reflects the will of God as described in the Bible. They want the denomination to take action against those who openly oppose it.

Progressives in the church counter that the denomination needs to be more welcoming by following the teachings of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible.

Mark Hipps-Figgs addresses a prayer request from the church during a service at the Elizabeth Street United Methodist Church on Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Durham, NC. Kaitlin McKeown [email protected]

How do churches distance themselves that disagree?

Under the rules, to withdraw, a congregation would have to take a vote and obtain the consent of at least two-thirds of the eligible members of the church present to vote, and then have their conference approve the motion.

Is there a deadline?

Under the 2019 Rules, known as Section 2553, churches have until December 31, 2023 to disengage from membership, which includes fulfilling financial obligations to the denomination.

But some will leave by the end of this year. At the United Methodist Church conference in North Carolina, which includes 56 districts in the eastern half of the state, churches had until September 20 this year to ask to leave the denomination on December 31, 2022.

Do all churches vote?

No, not all churches will vote on whether to leave. A vote will only take place if the members so request. Churches that do not vote remain in the conference as always.

what happened last saturday

During a special session, the North Carolina Conference, which represents the churches in eastern North Carolina, approved in a single vote the resignations of 249 of the 779 churches in the conference. The vote to approve the motions was not unanimous.

What if members of a single church disagree with their decision to leave or stay?

Also, the vote to leave was not unanimous in most of the communities that applied to leave. The NC Conference anticipates that there will be a movement of members from these churches, whether because they wanted the church to leave the church and they didn’t, or because they didn’t want the church to leave leaving the church and asking them to.

The NC Conference has announced that it will help members who wish to remain in the United Methodist Church find a new church home if their congregation is spinning off. This may include the conference that helps plant new United Methodist congregations. A meeting is planned for December 4th to discuss options.

What do Triangle Methodist Churches do?

Three churches in Raleigh – Asbury, Hollands and Layden Memorial – along with Mt. Zion in Garner were approved to sever membership. At Chapel Hill, Orange Chapel will resign.

In Johnston County, Elevation, Benson, Buckhorn, Corinth and Kenly leave. Oak Grove and Concord in Roxboro are splitting, as are Hickory Mountain and Sapling Ridge in Pittsboro.

For a complete list of churches approved to withdraw from the North Carolina Conference, see https://nccumc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/ncc-scac22-trustees-report.pdf.

Can it be more?

The NC Conference expects more churches to apply to leave in 2023, but it is not yet known how many.

What about Methodist churches in the western part of the state?

In the Western North Carolina Conference, which includes more than 1,000 churches, congregations’ resignations are voted on individually, a different process from the NC Conference. The Western Conference has so far approved the resignation requests of 18 churches.

Thirty-one churches in the Western Conference filed a lawsuit in August demanding to be allowed to withdraw from membership immediately without meeting requirements set by denomination leaders in 2019.

More exits are expected in the Western Conference. These would need to be approved at the conference meeting scheduled for June 2023 or at a specially convened meeting.

What is the Global Methodist Church?

Most churches leaving the United Methodist Church are expected to join the newly formed Global Methodist Church. In its Transitional Book of Doctrine and Disciplines, the new denomination defines marriage as between a man and a woman and says clergy can be charged and tried for sexual offenses, including sexual abuse or misconduct, infidelity, possession of pornography or oneself to engage in sexual activity outside of the bonds of a loving and monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.

What’s next for the United Methodist Church?

The United Methodist Church has yet to address language in the Book of Discipline that relates to homosexuality. The governing body is set to address the language at its 2024 meeting.

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Martha Quillin is a general reporter at The News & Observer, writing on North Carolina culture, religion, and social issues. Since 1987 she has worked in the entire newsroom.