The number of congregations that have left the United Methodist Church amid the schism over the denomination's stance on homosexuality has passed the 7,000 mark.
Over the weekend, the number of churches that have disaffiliated from the UMC since 2019 reached 7,286, according to UM News, with over 5,200 leaving this year alone.
This total includes 366 churches leaving the Kentucky Conference, 349 churches leaving the North Alabama Conference, 334 churches leaving the North Georgia Conference, 326 churches leaving the North Carolina Conference and 317 churches leaving the Indiana Annual Conference.
Of the 334 congregations that have disaffiliated from the North Georgia Conference since 2019, 261 were given approval to disaffiliate over the weekend at a special session held by the regional body.
According to a statement from the conference, there are still about 440 congregations affiliated with the regional body. These include four congregations whose disaffiliation votes were not approved: The Fountain United Methodist Church at Sugarloaf in Duluth, McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Trinity United Methodist Church of Rome and Griffin First United Methodist Church.
Over the past few decades, the UMC has been embroiled in a divisive debate over whether the country's second-largest Protestant denomination should amend language from its Book of Discipline that prohibits the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of clergy in same-sex romantic relationships.
Although efforts to change the Book of Discipline have failed, liberal leaders within the denomination have often refused to follow or enforce the rules, drawing the ire of many theological conservatives.
At a special session of the General Conference held in 2019, delegates voted to add paragraph 2553 to the UMC Book of Discipline, a measure to allow churches to disaffiliate from the denomination. The measure is set to expire at the end of the year.
While thousands of congregations across the United States have disaffiliated from the UMC under the parameters of paragraph 2553, some congregations have either had their disaffiliation votes rejected by their regional conferences or have faced other obstacles in their bid to leave.
Some of those churches have filed legal action against their respective conferences, accusing them of either not properly following the disaffiliation process or arguing that the process is unfair.
Earlier this month, a court in Montgomery, Alabama, ruled against 42 congregations trying to leave the Alabama-West Florida Conference, concluding that, as a secular court, it did not have the authority to intervene in the churches' complaint.
"The Court is without jurisdiction to rule on such issues because the relief sought by Plaintiffs would require the Court to interpret a provision of the Book of Discipline intertwined with church doctrine," ruled the Montgomery County Circuit Court.
Thousands of congregations that have disaffiliated from the UMC have joined the Global Methodist Church, a theologically conservative denomination launched as an alternative to UMC last year.