Virginia church leaving UMC over LGBT debate, joining theologically conservative network

Holston View United Methodist Church of Weber City, Virginia.
Holston View United Methodist Church of Weber City, Virginia. | Courtesy Holston View United Methodist Church

A United Methodist Church congregation in Virginia plans to join a theologically conservative alternative to the mainline Protestant denomination due to issues with the UMC's ongoing debate over homosexuality.

Holston View UMC of Weber City, which has over 300 members, recently announced that it is pursuing affiliation with the Global Methodist Church and leaving the UMC.

Meant to be a denomination where theologically conservative United Methodists can join to leave their church’s seemingly endless debate over LGBT issues, the GMC is scheduled to officially launch this Sunday.

A significant issue was incidents of some UMC leaders refusing to enforce Book of Discipline rules banning the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions. 

Holston View Pastor Chuck Griffin told The Christian Post on Tuesday that his congregation had not yet left the UMC but rather it was planning to pursue separation once “once a clear path develops.”

“Our church's top administrative board, the Church Leadership Council, voted 10-0 on March 24 to announce our intent, with one person abstaining and one absent,” he explained.

“We delayed the public announcement until we felt we had fully communicated the decision to church members.”

Griffin spoke well of the GMC, referring to the denomination as “the obvious continuation of traditional Methodism, which goes back to the 18th century.”

“The Methodist movement traditionally has treated Scripture as the inspired word of God, emphasizing specific biblical concepts like growing spiritually through regular engagement with God's abundant grace,” Griffin told CP.

“We expect the GMC will be a place where some lost or poorly practiced traditions of Methodism will be recovered.”

The Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications for the Holston Conference, told CP that he was “saddened to learn” about the congregation’s plans. He noted that the regional body has “a team working to create a fair and thoughtful process for churches to consider disaffiliation in a way that honors our relationships and complies with church law.”

Jones also provided CP with a statement from Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, acknowledging that “some of our congregations and clergy are considering withdrawing from The United Methodist Church to become a part of another expression of Methodism such as the Global Methodist Church.”

“It will sadden us if these churches and clergy discern to withdraw. However, we will send them forth with our blessing to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” she continued.

Over the past few decades, the UMC has weathered increasingly divisive debate over its official stance labeling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching,” including a ban on clergy performing same-sex weddings or being in a same-sex romantic relationship.

Many conservatives within the denomination have taken issue with liberal leadership refusing to enforce the UMC Book of Discipline rules on LGBT issues, leading some to consider leaving the UMC over the debate.

Before the pandemic lockdowns began in early 2020, UMC leaders were planning to consider measures aimed at “amicable separation” for the denomination, to be voted on at that year’s General Conference.

However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the churchwide conference was postponed on multiple occasions, which only increased tensions among some liberals and conservatives.

In March, UMC leadership announced that they were once again postponing General Conference, this time to 2024, citing ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest postponement led organizers of the Global Methodist Church to decide to launch the new denomination on May 1, rather than their previous plan to launch after General Conference approved a separation plan.

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