United Methodist Church Exits Accelerate

United Methodist Church Exits Accelerate

After 2023, there is no clear path for United Methodist congregations to exit the denomination without losing their property. The 2024 General Conference could approve another exit pathway but it unlikely to do so. Paragraph 2553 was ratified by the 2019 Special General Conference by less than 52 percent, with traditionalists supporting and liberals opposing. Traditionalists are not expected to have a majority in 2024.      

United Methodist exits are accelerating, as at least 260 of 779 churches in the North Carolina Conference, or one third, have voted to disaffiliate or plan to next year, according to The Carolina Journal.  United Methodist churches, whose property is owned by the denomination through the local “conference,” can vote to exit the liberalizing denomination, with their property and a one-time payment, before the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, 118 churches, or 28 percent of the total, have notified the Peninsula-Delaware Conference that they plan to exit, the conference’s trustees announced. This number shocked conference officials, as the churches organized within only a few weeks when notified that Bishop Latrelle Easterling was going to impose a 50% real estate value surcharge on exit costs after the arbitrary deadline. The exiting churches contribute $1.4 million to the conference’s budget, which was $4.8 million in 2021. It’s believed another 75-100 churches would like to leave but failed to meet the deadline. Possibly some will litigate.

Additionally, Dallas-area St. Andrew United Methodist Church of Plano, with 6500 members, has voted to exit United Methodism. Its pastor is Arthur Jones, son of Houston Bishop Scott Jones, and nephew of former Duke Divinity School dean Greg Jones. “The historical Methodist theology and our focus on Jesus is what we aim to protect,” the church explained about its exit.

The church’s website notes that the church’s now deceased former longtime pastor had started considering disaffiliation years ago and asked church leaders to “monitor the inevitable fragmenting of the United Methodist Church.”  That pastor died in July but had left a recording urging disaffiliation.

At least 500 UMC churches in the state of Texas, including four of the top six by membership, have exited or plan to, according to The Dallas Morning News. St. Andrew is the state’s seventh-largest United Methodist church.

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