113 South Carolina churches disaffiliate from the UMC amid schism over homosexuality

The opening service of The South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, held in Florence, South Carolina on June 4-7, 2023. | Screengrab: Vimeo/UMCSC

More than 100 congregations in South Carolina have been given the greenlight to leave The United Methodist Church, joining thousands of others who have done the same since last year.

Members of the South Carolina Annual Conference overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday in favor of approving the disaffiliation votes of 113 congregations, with them officially leaving the UMC on June 30.

South Carolina Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said in a statement after the vote that he and other conference leaders “pray for these churches that have chosen a different journey.”

“May we also acknowledge that that which binds us will never leave us. In the midst of our separation, may we show each other the grace and love that you demonstrated through your sacrifice on the cross and your resurrection from the grave,” said Holston.

“For those who are leaving us, we bless you and send you on your way. For those who are remaining, we pray that God gives us a new will to do what God has called us to do. May it become clear, may it become important, may it move from our heads to our hearts.”

Among those leaving includes Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church of Lexington, which was the largest congregation in the South Carolina Conference, with approximately 5,000 members.

The Rev. Jeff Kersey, senior pastor of Mt. Horeb, told the Charleston-based Post and Courier back in January that he appreciated the UMC having a process for disaffiliating from the denomination.

“We are thankful a plan, path and price has been provided for traditional churches to consider separation from the denomination,” said Kersey at the time.

For years, the UMC has experienced much internal debate over whether to change its official position, as laid out in the Book of Discipline, prohibiting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people involved in same-sex romantic relationships.

Although efforts at the UMC General Conference have always failed to change the rules, many progressive leaders within the mainline Protestant denomination have refused to follow or enforce the standards.

A number of conservatives have decided to leave the UMC because of this ongoing resistance and debate, with thousands of congregations having left since last year, according to UM News.

Many of those leaving the UMC have become affiliated with the Global Methodist Church, a theologically conservative denomination that was officially launched last year.  

Others have chosen different paths. For example, White’s Chapel of Southlake, Texas, a megachurch that left the UMC last year, recently launched their own denomination, known as the Methodist Collegiate Church.

According to the FAQ section of their website, the MCC distinguishes itself from the GMC by being more “focused on empowering the local church and sharing leadership authority.”

“We seek to limit the discipline at the Collegium level to doctrines we hold in common and the organizational and connectional structures we chose to employ. We emphasize connectionalism as an organizing principle,” explained the MCC.

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