A megachurch in Indiana has cut ties with the United Methodist Church in large part so that it can choose its own leadership as its founding pastor steps down.
Granger Community Church, a multisite congregation which had a pre-pandemic weekly worship attendance of around 4,000 people, recently finalized its exit from the UMC.
The UMC Indiana Conference released a statement Monday confirming the dismissal, saying the process was “governed by mutual respect and a prayerful commitment to spread the love of Jesus Christ.”
“We are pleased that the parties’ settlement was amicable and honored the connection that binds all United Methodist Churches in one shared mission as recognized by our Book of Discipline,” stated the conference.
“Granger Community Church has had many ministries that have helped to shape many communities, and the Conference and Bishop Trimble wish them all the best on their new spiritual path.”
The conference also noted that the divisive debate over LGBT issues within the UMC did not play a factor in the church’s decision to leave the denomination.
Granger Community could not provide a detailed response by press time. However, the church pointed to an update from July 7 explaining how it intended to leave the UMC because of its desire to choose a leader to replace founding pastor Mark Beeson.
Beeson, who founded Granger Community in 1986, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was relieved of his position as senior pastor last December.
As a result, the church began a disaffiliation process, since in the UMC, local congregation leadership is often determined by the regional bodies.
Granger Community chose Ted Bryant, executive pastor of Adult Ministries for the past three years, to serve as the new lead pastor. Beeson will continue to serve as pastor emeritus.
“We are excited to continue to help people take their next steps toward Christ …together. This is a new season for our church, and we’re so glad you’re here,” continued the update.
“Weekend services are now happening in-person at the Granger Campus in July, or you can keep watching online to stay connected.”
Since the church property was held in trust with the UMC, the conference and the departing congregation reached “a purchase agreement” totaling approximately $2.6 million.
“Of that, an estimated $524,000 will be deposited at Wespath (the UMC’s benefit services and investment group) for Granger’s portion of unfunded pension liabilities, and another $617,000 will be deposited in the Conference’s retiree health subsidy fund at Wespath as Granger’s pro rata fair share. The remaining funds represent two years of unpaid net tithes from Granger,” noted the Indiana Conference.
Granger Community told CP that it intends to remain a nondenominational church for the time being and will not seek membership with another Methodist denomination.