A staggering 107 United Methodist congregations based in Florida plan to leave the mainline denomination for the newly launched conservative Global Methodist Church.
The Florida chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a theologically conservative Methodist group, announced Tuesday that 107 churches in the state had “chosen to initiate the process to depart the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.”
The number of congregations planning to leave represents nearly 20% of the total number of churches belonging to the UMC Florida Conference, according to WCA.
“This broad group of churches include both large and small congregations along with Anglo, African American, Latino, Korean, and other ethnic communities of faith. These churches will align with the new Global Methodist Church,” stated the WCA chapter.
Keith Boyette, a leader in the WCA who served as a Transitional Connectional Coordinating Officer for the Global Methodist Church, told The Christian Post that he believes “there will be additional churches that will emerge as we move forward.”
“It is my understanding that all of these churches have taken votes to leave,” Boyette said when asked how firm the congregations were in leaving the UMC.
“The Transitional Leadership Council of the GMC will organize local churches like the 107 from Florida into regional conferences. The regional conferences are called annual conferences.”
Meant to serve as a conservative alternative for the UMC, the Global Methodist Church was originally planning to launch after General Conference, which had been slated to take place this fall.
However, the GMC opted to launch this month after UMC leadership announced that the General Conference would be postponed until 2024 due to ongoing pandemic concerns.
Boyette told CP that he anticipates the departing congregations will face early challenges, contending that the Florida Conference “is certainly not an ‘easy’ conference” for a congregation to disaffiliate from.
CP reached out to the Florida Conference to get a response to this development and to confirm that 107 congregations had begun a formal disaffiliation process. However, the regional body did not respond by press time.
For decades, the UMC has been debating whether to change its official stance labeling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This stance includes banning the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals and barring clergy from blessing same-sex marriages.
Although the stance has survived numerous attempts to change it, theological liberals have continued to resist the Book of Discipline's rules and refused to enforce them in some instances.
In January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began, a theologically diverse group of UMC leaders announced a proposal to have the UMC fund the creation of a new Methodist denomination that conservative churches could join.
Known as the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” the proposal would have allocated $25 million to create the new denomination, but it had to be passed at General Conference first.
Although three annual conferences had voted to send the Protocol to General Conference for consideration in early 2020, the pandemic prompted UMC leaders to postpone the General Conference multiple times.