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Methodist Exodus in High Gear as Largest UMC Churches in Michigan, AL, SC Want Out


Some of the largest U.S. churches in the United Methodist Church (UMC) are leaving the Protestant denomination as the UMC is accelerating its moves to become more accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, despite biblical prohibitions. This has led to severe divisions within the denomination and more departures from the group. 

Cornerstone Church of Caledonia, the largest UMC congregation in Michigan, voted Sunday to disaffiliate from the UMC and become a nondenominational congregation, according to the UMC Michigan Conference. The final tally was 616 in favor, nine against, and two abstentions.

Even though they voted to leave the main denomination, the church still wants to work with the UMC on some projects, but have a relationship with other denominations. 

"We like being networked and connected," Cornerstone Church Pastor Ken Nash told the UMC Michigan Conference. "We love the idea of connectionalism. So this isn't a renegade spirit that we have. We want to have connection in the future. It just doesn't have to be as formalized."

slider img 2Rev. Margie Crawford, superintendent of the Midwest District, has been assisting Cornerstone through the disaffiliation process. She told the Michigan Conference even though Cornerstone has been amenable to the disaffiliation process and all the financial requirements, and even though it was an overwhelming majority, the vote on Sunday was still painful. From her perspective, it was a somber moment. "There was no clapping when the vote was revealed. There was no cheering."

UMC Michigan Bishop David Bard wished the departing congregation well in their new efforts. 

"In the long run, all churches seek to be in ministry for Jesus Christ, offering hope and healing and seeking justice and reconciliation. I wish Cornerstone and its leaders well as they move into a new chapter of their ministry," Bard said in a statement. "I also pledge to work with any in the church that wishes to continue to be part of a United Methodist congregation."

According to the conference, Cornerstone Church's disaffiliation will not be formally ratified until delegates to the 2023 Michigan Annual Conference vote in June.

Dothan, Alabama Megachurch Votes for Disaffiliation

Earlier this month, an Alabama UMC megachurch also voted to leave the denomination. 

Covenant United Methodist Church of Dothan, which has approximately 2,600 members, voted to seek disaffiliation from the UMC, with 406 present members voting in favor of leaving, 64 voting against, and four abstaining, according to The Christian Post (CP). 

Covenant UMC Pastor Kyle Gatlin told the CP that major factors for wanting to leave included "the direction we saw the denomination was headed, theologically."  Even though the church had not seen the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions in their own conference, Gatlin said his church felt like "now was the time to leave."

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The church's leaders recommended the congregation join the Global Methodist Church, the new theologically conservative denomination which launched in May of 2022. The GMC said in January it now has more than 1,100 congregations. 

Covenant will have to wait until May 7 when the UMC Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference will meet to approve the votes of churches wanting to leave the denomination, according to the CP

The Dothan, Alabama church is just the tip of the iceberg for the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. WDHN-TV reports Covenant joins 55 to 60 churches within the group that have made the same decision. 

South Carolina's Largest UMC Congregation in Lexington Has Voted to Leave

Meanwhile, South Carolina's largest UMC congregation also voted to leave the denomination last month. 

The Lexington County Chronicle reported members of Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church of Lexington voted 97% in favor of the departure. 

The church posted a discernment guide explaining it's leaving the denomination "to preserve the church's traditional, theological heritage and to advance the church's ministry forward into the future."

"At Mt. Horeb, discernment and affiliation decisions are focused on the primary matters of scriptural authority in regards to marriage and human sexuality," the church's guide reads. "We believe in celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage, with marriage being defined between a man and woman. Mt. Horeb relies on the Scriptures and what orthodox Christians have always believed about God to guide all matters of human relations, including sexual ethics."

Texas Megachurch Voted to Leave Denomination in February

As CBN News reported earlier this month, members of St. Andrew Methodist Church of Plano voted 859-12 (98.6% of those present) to officially disaffiliate from the denomination on Feb. 21. The vote came after the church's executive committee announced last October their intent to dissolve ties with the UMC. 

St. Andrew has a membership of 6,000 members. 

The church had promised to pay the necessary apportionments and pension liabilities and to honor the UMC North Texas Conference's terms for disaffiliation. And conference officials affirmed that "St. Andrew UMC has met the requirements for disaffiliation," according to a statement on the conference's website

Texas has long been a stronghold for the United Methodist Church, United Methodist News Service reports. St. Andrew stood as the largest congregation of the group.

So far, about 546 of the 1,260 UMC churches in Texas, or about 45 percent, are leaving the UMC, The Dallas Morning News reported in December. 

Overall, 2,077 churches have left the UMC since 2019. 

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