A Texas megachurch has voted overwhelmingly to leave The United Methodist Church, believing that the mainline Protestant denomination is a “broken institution.”
White’s Chapel, a Southlake-based congregation, voted on Monday to disaffiliate from the UMC, with 2,338 voting in favor of leaving, 160 voting against, and seven members abstaining.
In an announcement made shortly after the vote, Pastors John McKellar and Todd Renner acknowledged that some members might be “hurting” or “disappointed” by the vote result.
“If you find yourself in that place this evening, we want to speak to you: Please know that you are welcome here and that you are loved here. And as a church, let us covenant to pray for them and for our entire congregation,” they stated.
“Let us, also, please keep in our prayers our friends and colleagues in the United Methodist Church: for its lay-, clergy-, and episcopal leadership. These are incredibly difficult days, and the work that lays before them is as daunting as it is essential.”
The co-pastors went on to explain that the months of discernment over the disaffiliation vote have been part of a “difficult season of ministry,” but that they were also “bolstered by the support and prayers of our congregation.”
“As we turn our eyes toward the future, we are energized. We are excited. And we are eager to get busy building our ‘what’s next’ — following God into the future and entrusting ourselves to his guidance and loving care,” continued the clergy.
In a document released earlier in the discernment process, White’s Chapel explained that their reasons for discerning departure from the UMC was due to the denomination’s “ongoing division.”
“Today, we are experiencing the UMC as a broken institution. As well, the alternatives we have been given don’t seem to align with our context or our theology. These are reasons we are exploring a ‘realignment,’” explained White’s Chapel.
“We hope to align with other Methodist churches in a cooperative manner in both mission and ministry. We envision a new form of connectionalism, defined by shared ministry, equal accountability, and practical governance.”
Over the past several years, the UMC has been embroiled in a divisive debate over whether to change its stance on LGBT issues, namely its prohibition on blessing same-sex unions and banning the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Although previous efforts to change the UMC’s stances have failed, many theologically progressive leaders and congregations have refused to enforce or follow the rules.
For example, the UMC Western Jurisdiction elected to elevate the Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth to the high position of bishop, even though it is widely known that he is in a same-sex marriage.
John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion & Democracy told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that Bridgeforth's election was “further direct defiance of the UMC’s official rules, which is increasingly becoming normalized.”
“Bishops are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of upholding and enforcing our church’s doctrinal and moral standards. When the bishops are so openly breaking these standards, then this is a true ‘inmates running the asylum’ situation,” Lomperis added.
Earlier this year, the Global Methodist Church was launched with the specific intention of being a theologically conservative alternative to the UMC. Scores of UMC congregations have already voted to join the new denomination.