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439 Texas Methodist Churches Leave Denomination

Lifestyle

United Methodist Church | Image by Shutterstock

On Saturday, December 3, 439 churches throughout Texas received approval from the United Methodist Church (UMC) to leave the denomination over displeasure with lax enforcement of a 2019 decision reaffirming prohibitions on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriage.

The Texas Annual Conference and the Northwest Texas Conference, based in Houston and Lubbock, respectively, allowed the churches to depart after two special sessions held outside of annual meetings.

The Texas Annual Conference approved the departure of 294 churches out of its nearly 600, while the Northwest Texas Conference approved the departure of 145 of its approximately 200 churches.

St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, decided to split from UMC without a congregational vote in early October. St. Andrew’s is the second largest church in the North Texas Conference, with about 6,500 members.

“Everyone involved has a deep love for the denomination that birthed us; but the fractures and flaws of the institution are too deep to ignore,” said Rev. Arthur Jones, senior pastor, and Kathy King, the church’s executive committee chair, in a statement. “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 separation from the UMC has been in the works for years, as more conservative churches have expressed frustration with a lack of enforcement of UMC’s ban on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy members.

Some churches, like St. Andrew’s, cited other reasons, such as lack of structure and financial concerns, for leaving the denomination. “The fact is we can protect our finances, our property and our pastors by going in a new direction,” representatives for St. Andrew said.

In the coming months, hundreds of more churches across the state are expected to depart after receiving approval, with many choosing to join the more conservative-aligned Global Methodist Church.

The disaffiliation process, updated in 2019, requires a two-thirds majority to be reached by each congregation. Next, the annual conference, or regional governing bodies, must approve the request. In exchange, each church must pay two years of apportionments, or funding, to the UMC after leaving. In Houston’s regional branch, 93% of the 1,245 voting delegates voted to approve the departure.

“This is a very difficult time, but I’m proud that our conference has handled this with grace, with mutual respect and with love,” said Bishop Scott Jones of the Texas Annual Conference, who will be retiring at the end of December.

The UMC has been steadily losing influence over churches nationwide after releasing its 2019 initial exit plan, which laid the framework for churches wanting to leave. More than 1,300 of the UMC’s 30,500 American churches have decided to part with the denomination.

In some areas, the UMC may simply cease to exist. Within Lubbock’s division, 75% of the churches previously affiliated with the UMC left with Saturday’s session.

On November 18, the UMC voted for its lowest budget in decades, at $373.7 million for 2025-2028. The UMC acknowledged the low budget reflects a challenging period financially and politically, yet asked for “spiritual depth and courage” at this time.

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