Thirty-five congregations in Arkansas that belong to The United Methodist Church are undergoing processes of discernment for possibly disaffiliating from the mainline Protestant denomination over its ongoing homosexuality debate.
As the UMC Arkansas Conference begins to hold its official annual meeting this week, 35 of its 634 member churches are involved in the disaffiliation process.
A conference spokesperson confirmed the number of churches under discernment in an email to The Christian Post on Wednesday, adding that she was uncertain as to how many more will undergo the process in the near future, labeling it “pure speculation.”
The spokesperson directed CP to a video of Arkansas Bishop Gary Mueller explaining the options for congregations unsure of whether they will remain in the denomination.
This included pointing out that the UMC Book of Discipline still presently maintains a traditional stance on LGBT issues, including a ban on the blessing of same-sex unions and a ban on the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
The three options included staying with the denomination indefinitely, waiting for the results of the 2024 General Conference, or leaving under the present standards for disaffiliation, which include a congregational vote, communication with conference leadership, and certain financial payments to the denomination.
“This is not a battle to be won, it’s not a mixed martial arts cage match. It’s a time of grief and discernment,” said the bishop. “We need to respect the best intentions of others.”
On May 1, a theologically conservative alternative to the UMC known as the Global Methodist Church was launched in response to the ongoing debate over LGBT issues in the denomination.
Since then, churches across the UMC, especially in the United States, have announced plans to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination to join the nascent GMC.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association, a theologically conservative UMC group, recently said that 107 UMC congregations in Florida had taken measures aimed trying to join the GMC.
The Florida chapter of the WCA said: “107 Florida Methodist churches have chosen to initiate the process to depart the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church … 107 represents approximately 20% of the 560 United Methodist Churches in the Florida Conference.”
“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 (‘GMC’) which launched on May 1, 2022.”