ATLANTA — The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church voted Saturday to allow hundreds of its churches to split from the denomination because of an ideological divide over LGBTQ issues.
At a special called session in Athens, the conference ratified the disaffiliation requests, allowing those churches who want to leave the ability to go. The large group of churches have opted to exit the denomination after a major fracture over ordination of openly gay clergy and performance of same-sex marriage.
After the hours-long meeting of hundreds of members, 261 churches were approved to break from the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Robin Dease, episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference, told attendees that she didn’t expect to be as emotional over the split given she assumed the leadership role in Nov. 2022.
“But I realized how sad this time is for so many, including myself,” she said. “I just hate that those who are leaving us, I will not have the opportunity to meet or to be with.”
Congregations that are leaving want to retain more traditional tenets of the denomination. Others are concerned that the denomination is becoming too progressive, or they fear changes over biblical interpretation.
On Saturday morning, one-by-one district superintendents took to the stage to name off the churches within their areas followed by lay leaders offering a prayer. Some described the day as “heartbreaking” while churches are “weary of conflict.” Others hoped “the split is the will of God and not of people.”
More than 1,500 members then voted in favor to “affirm the consent agenda to ratify the disaffiliation of churches.” Over 80% of members present approved the disaffiliation of 254 churches through an initial vote.
Eleven churches remained to be debated among all members. The discussions showed the depth of the divide down to the individual members of each congregation — some urged attendees to stop the disaffiliation process while others declared they had the right to part ways.
Of those 11, four churches had their requests for disaffiliation denied through a vote: Fountain Church UMC at Sugarloaf in Duluth; McEachern Memorial UMC in Powder Springs; Trinity UMC in Rome; and Griffin First UMC in Griffin.
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