A satellite campus of a United Methodist congregation in Kansas has left the mainline denomination over the church body's homosexuality debate.
Asbury United Methodist Church of Wichita's west campus, which had an average 350 regular attendance, decided to cut ties with both the main campus and the denomination.
The vote came at a meeting held last Thursday which featured Asbury Church Senior Pastor Rick Just and West Campus Pastor Aaron Wallace.
Asbury UMC provided The Christian Post with a statement on Wednesday, noting that at the meeting Pastor Wallace "acknowledged his struggle with some of the conflict that has been occurring in the life of the denomination."
"He was very clear that the decision to leave was a calling for him, and him alone, to do so. However, the leadership and the congregation of the West Campus affirmed that calling for themselves as well," noted the statement.
Regarding the vote to leave the UMC, Asbury UMC Pastor Just said that while "we are sad that they have chosen to leave, it is our desire that God will bless them in their endeavor to continue to minister in Christ's name, whatever that looks like in the future."
"Lives have been transformed because of their faithful and intentional witness to share Christ with others. We see no reason why that will not continue," said Just.
"We will now work diligently with the parent leadership team to discern the next steps as it relates to the building and property and how we as Asbury Church can continue to be a vital congregation whose mission it is for people to experience 'The transformation of the whole person through the love and power of Jesus Christ.'"
When CP asked for further details regarding the process of the transition, Asbury UMC declined to provide further comment.
Over the past several years, the United Methodist Church has experienced much internal debate over its position on LGBT issues.
The UMC's Book of Discipline states that homosexuality is a sin, that marriage is only between one man and one woman, and that clergy are prohibited from being involved in same-sex relationships.
At the UMC General Conference meeting back in May, delegates voted in favor of a recommendation to create a commission that would analyze the position of the denomination.
"We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality," read the recommendation.
"We will name such a commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate. We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes."
In October, the United Methodist Council of Bishops announced the names of the 32 people who would be members of the Commission, noting the "theological diversity" of those selected.
Asbury UMC's West Campus is not the first United Methodist body to leave the denomination over the debate on homosexuality.
In 2015, Wesley Church of Quarryville, Pennsylvania, voted to leave the UMC, paying the denomination approximately $100,000 to keep their property.
Chris Lenhart, associate pastor at Wesley Church, told CP in 2015 that congregational leadership saw a "considerable chasm forming between what Wesley believed and affirmed about the nature of God's Word and what the denomination believed and affirmed about the nature of God's Word.
"The primary issue for us leaving revolved around biblical authority. Wesley Church believes and affirms that God's Word is fully inspired and inerrant and fully authoritative on all matters pertaining to our lives," said Lenhart.
"We were indeed disappointed by the, 'peripheral' decisions coming from the denomination, but saw them as symptoms of a greater issue."