Four ways to leave your denomination: How churches are disaffiliating from the UMC

by | Jun 14, 2023 | Religion

Denise Edlund, family ministry coordinator and finance chair of Christ United Methodist Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin, shares that the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church approved the church’s disaffiliation before worship on June 11, 2023. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan MillerGREENFIELD, Wisconsin (RNS) — The news was met quietly on Sunday (June 11) at Christ United Methodist Church, a small church outside Milwaukee that welcomes about 30 people each week.
The church’s disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church — along with the departures of 42 other churches in the denomination’s Wisconsin Conference — had been approved days before by delegates to the annual conference meeting in Green Bay.

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The final vote by the annual conference came “after a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Denise Edlund shared with the congregation. In the end, she said, the conference meeting was “a very graceful service,” where “they were very kind and respectful — what we expect to see in a church.”
“So stay tuned for the next step, because we’re going to be moving on,” added Edlund, the church’s family ministry coordinator and finance chair.
Some congregation leaders shared after Sunday morning’s worship service that they felt a mix of relief and sorrow, excitement and lament after years spent walking through the required steps to leave a denomination that some of them, like Edlund, had belonged to since they were children.
People celebrate two members’ 60th wedding anniversary in the fellowship hall, Sunday, June 11, 2023, after a service at Christ United Methodist Church in Greenfield, Wisconsin. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller
But most of the day’s emotion was reserved for a more immediate cause for celebration: the 60th wedding anniversary of two church members. Nearly 50 people, a larger-than-normal weekly turnout, gathered after the service around colorful plastic tablecloths in the church’s fellowship hall to toast the couple.
To date, more than 5,550 of the United Methodist Church’s approximately 30,000 U.S. churches have disaffiliated from the country’s second-largest Protestant denomination since 2019, according to the unofficial tally kept by United Methodist News.
And while most of those churches have followed the disaffiliation plan outlined by the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, other congregations and annual conferences have tried different ways to leave the mainline denomination — to varying degrees of success.
According to the disaffiliation plan
In 2019, as long-simmering disagreement about the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists finally boiled over, delegates gathered for a special session of the denomination’s global decision-making body, the General Conference.
Those delegates strengthened existing language in the denomination’s rulebook banning same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
FILE – A gay pride rainbow flag flies along with the U.S. flag in front of the Asbury United Met …

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