The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church has made a significant decision, allowing 261 of its congregations to break away from the denomination. This move, which occurred during a special session on Saturday, comes in the wake of ongoing theological debates and differing views on the role of LGBTQ+ individuals within the church.
The Issue at the Core
The United Methodist Church has been embroiled in a long-standing controversy over its stance on LGBTQ+ rights, particularly concerning its bans on same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly LGBTQ+ clergy. Despite the denomination’s official position, which prohibits the marriage or ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” there has been increasing defiance of these bans by some U.S. churches and clergy members. This growing dissent has prompted many conservative congregations to opt for disaffiliation.
A Trend of Disaffiliation
The departure of the 261 congregations in North Georgia is part of a larger trend within the United Methodist Church. Since 2019, an unofficial count by the United Methodist News Service indicates that 7,286 congregations, predominantly in the South and Midwest, have been approved to leave the denomination. The bulk of these disaffiliations, numbering over 5,000, have taken place in the current year, reflecting a significant shift in the religious landscape.
The Impact of the Split
The disaffiliation of such a large number of congregations marks a “solemn day” for the North Georgia Conference, as acknowledged in their news release. This split underscores the deep divisions within the church over LGBTQ+ inclusion and theological interpretations. The decision represents not only a shift in the structure of the United Methodist Church but also highlights the ongoing debates and challenges facing religious institutions regarding inclusivity and diversity.