On Sunday, eight additional churches chose to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, among them was Christ Methodist Church in Mobile, a congregation with 4,936 members and one of the largest in the city.
During a conference call held at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church approved the disaffiliation of Christ Methodist along with six other churches in Alabama.
Salem Church in the Marianna-Panama City district has received approval for disaffiliation, joining the list of churches in the Florida panhandle undergoing the same process.
On Sunday, several churches in Alabama decided to disaffiliate. The churches that made this decision include Benton, Hayneville, and Lowndesboro from the Montgomery-Prattville district of the conference, Macedonia from the Montgomery-Opelika district, and Marietta and Oak Grove from the Demopolis district.
Bishop David Graves, who oversaw the special called meeting, expressed the urgent need to reach a better place.
Graves expressed that the Alabama-West Florida Conference Methodists are experiencing a surge of emotions following the announcement made by the conference board of trustees in June regarding the mandatory eligibility statement. “The people called Methodists within the conference have been deeply affected and their emotions have intensified since then,” he added.
Leaders in the Alabama-West Florida Conference emphasized the importance of loyalty and introduced stricter guidelines for disaffiliation in June.
In an effort to leave the United Methodist denomination by the end of the year, a group of 42 congregations in southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle filed a lawsuit against Bishop Graves and the Alabama-West Florida Conference. The congregations claim that Bishop Graves has been delaying the disaffiliation process, preventing them from leaving the denomination. Although Sunday marked the last scheduled disaffiliation vote for this year, the legal battle is ongoing.
In Montgomery County Circuit Court, a lawsuit has been filed against Graves and his cabinet. The defendants are accused of attempting to prevent the departure of the plaintiffs from the denomination and taking their property with them, which is permitted by church law until December 31. The lawsuit alleges that the bishop is attempting to delay the process.
Graves stated that some church congregations aimed to present themselves for disaffiliation voting before the annual conference. He further added that individuals on both sides of the matter have strongly held onto their beliefs and perspectives.
Prior to the recent vote on Sunday, a total of 240 congregations had already disaffiliated from the Alabama-West Florida Conference. With the new vote, the number has now increased to 248. The North Alabama Conference also saw an increase in disaffiliated churches, bringing their total to 348 after the last disaffiliation vote on September 12th. It’s worth noting that both conferences had over 600 churches each prior to these disaffiliations.
All of the churches that left the denomination had a majority vote of 66.7% or higher to either become independent or join more conservative denominations. These denominations uphold traditional Christian beliefs that do not allow for same-sex marriage to be questioned.
Despite the United Methodist Church maintaining its traditional position against same-sex marriage and ordaining openly gay clergy, the issue has caused significant division within the church. This has led to many conservatives leaving the church, taking church property with them when a door was opened to allow for such actions.
Graves expressed his concern about the current state of leadership, mentioning that it has become increasingly political in various areas, including Washington, D.C. and the church. He believes that this political aspect of leadership is causing divisions among people.
Some Methodist churches have decided to leave the denomination and have chosen to either become independent or join more conservative denominations. These denominations include the Global Methodist Church, which was formed in 2020 to welcome new conservative Methodist congregations, as well as the Free Methodist Church and the Foundry movement – a network of affiliated churches in the Methodist tradition.
In recent times, Frazer Memorial Methodist Church, located in Montgomery, Alabama, made a significant decision to disaffiliate. With over 7,000 members, Frazer was recognized as the most substantial membership United Methodist Church in Alabama. However, the church decided to join the Free Methodist Church, which is known to be a theologically conservative denomination.
According to Graves, all individuals who wish to remain United Methodist after the departure of their respective churches are welcome to attend a remaining church or add their names to a general church roll. This will allow them to be matched with a United Methodist church in the future. Graves also mentioned that efforts are currently underway to start new places of worship.
The United Methodists have urged for the repeal of the ban on same-sex marriage and openly gay clergy.
The leaders of the United Methodists have requested loyalty from their members and tightened rules on disaffiliation while downsizing the organization.
The Disaffiliation of 132 North Alabama United Methodist Churches: Trussville, Helena, Gardendale
As 193 churches officially disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, a bishop from the denomination emphasizes the harmful impact of division. The bishop stated, “Division is of the devil,” highlighting the negative consequences of separating from the larger community. It is evident that such a decision has led to a significant loss, not only for the churches who have left but for the United Methodist Church as a whole. The bishop’s message is clear: unity is crucial, and division only serves to divide and weaken. As the United Methodist Church moves forward, it is essential to prioritize coming together as a community, rather than allowing differences to tear us apart.
The United Methodists are feeling devastated after being abandoned by churches that have decided to disaffiliate. The impact of this decision has left a deep emotional scar on the remaining members who feel crushed by the loss.
United Methodists are looking to establish new churches in areas such as Prattville and Orange Beach to replace those that have disaffiliated in the recent split.
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