United Methodist Churches Split Over LGBTQ+ Issues

Congregations are approved to leave North Georgia, Iowa groups
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2023 11:30 AM CST
LGBTQ+ Issues Shrink United Methodist Conferences
St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta, a member of the North Georgia Conference, displays a gay pride banner in 2019.   (Getty/BluIz60)

Divisions over LGBTQ+ issues are costing the United Methodist Church's North Georgia Conference 261 of its nearly 700 congregations. In a vote Saturday, the conference approved the church's requests to leave, effective at the end of the month, CNN reports. They will no longer be allowed to use "United Methodist" name or logo. The national church had decided in 2019 that congregations could leave by the end of this year over issues related to policies on "the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals." By August 2023, more than 6,000 of 30,000 or so US congregations had received approval to break away, the church's website shows.

"I realize how sad this time is for many, including myself," said Bishop Robin Dease, who leads the North Georgia Conference. "In December, approximately 440 North Georgia Conference churches will continue the work of fulfilling the mission of the United Methodist church in our communities and beyond," a conference statement said. The United Methodist Church's Iowa conference also lost congregations on Saturday, per the Des Moines Register, Another 59 churches were approved for disaffiliation, following the split of 83 congregations in May, also over differences on same-sex marriage and ordaining openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

Bishop Kennetha Bigham-Tsai addressed the Iowa conference on Zoom just before the vote. She said that when she took office a year ago, "I began to challenge all of us to remember who we are," calling that understanding crucial. "We are here today because we have better defined ourselves. Some of our siblings have decided that their sense of identity leads them along a different path." The departing congregations can decide to be independent or to join the Global Methodist Church, a denomination formed last year that supports LGBTQ-related restrictions. (Read more United Methodists stories.)

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