The leadership of a Texas megachurch has decided to leave The United Methodist Church without a congregational vote, which defies denominational rules on dismissal.
St. Andrew United Methodist Church of Plano, which has approximately 6,500 members, recently announced that the church is going to disaffiliate with the UMC, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the country.
"St. Andrew will disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC), but not affiliate with any other existing Methodist denomination. St. Andrew will remain Methodist with the same Wesleyan theology that we have always believed," the announcement reads.
"St. Andrew will be named St. Andrew Methodist and operate over a period as an independent Methodist church while seeking partnerships and accountability with other like-hearted churches. We will be looking to create affiliations with those who also desire greater accountability with more efficient systems and structures than we have had with the UMC."
The UMC Book of Discipline ¶2553 says that any "decision to disaffiliate" from the UMC "must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference."
Church leadership told The Christian Post via an emailed statement that they don't believe having the congregation vote on the issue is necessary.
"St. Andrew's decision was made in accordance with its governing legal documents, which allowed the decision to be made without a congregational vote. St. Andrew stands by the legal enforceability of its decision, and it is overwhelmingly supported by the church members," the church's statement reads.
"St. Andrew's leadership comprises a variety of individuals all with unique professional experience and personal views that are representative of our congregation. They collectively spent hundreds of hours of in-depth research examining both the decision to disaffiliate and the mechanism to make the decision."
St. Andrew UMC is one of the largest congregations in the UMC North Texas Annual Conference, headquartered in Plano.
CP reached out to the North Texas Conference for comment. A spokesperson emailed a statement from Bishop Michael McKee.
"The process by which St. Andrew made this decision is unique in the history of our Wesleyan tradition, which requires congregational votes on major decisions," stated McKee.
"I mourn the fact the members of St. Andrew were denied both voice and vote on the most consequential decision their church has ever made."
The annual conference didn't comment on whether there would be ensuing legal action due to the megachurch's refusal to hold the congregational vote on disaffiliation.
The decision for St. Andrew to leave UMC was made by the church's executive committee after an extensive study and votes of approval from other church committees, according to UM News.
In recent months, several congregations have left the UMC, mainly because of the longstanding schism over the denomination's stance on LGBT issues.
The UMC Book of Discipline labels homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching" and prohibits the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.
Theological liberals have often tried to alter the language, and many in leadership positions within the denomination have refused to enforce denominational standards on marriage and ordination.
St. Andrew is not the first Texas megachurch to announce its intentions to leave the UMC this year. The Woodlands Methodist Church, a congregation of over 14,000, voted in August to disaffiliate from the UMC Texas Annual Conference, with 96.3% of those voting supporting the disaffiliation.
According to the UMC Texas Annual Conference, there were at least 210 member congregations considering disaffiliation from the denomination as of late July. The conference plans to hold a special session on Dec. 3 in Houston.
In July, 106 congregations belonging to the UMC Florida Annual Conference sued the regional body, arguing that the amount of money they were supposed to pay to keep their properties as part of the disaffiliation process was unfair.