BEAUMONT, Texas — Almost 30 Southeast Texas Methodist churches are disaffiliating due to conflicting views on gay marriage and abortion within the denomination.
More than 1,000 lay and clergy delegates from across the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church at a special session Saturday, according to a United Methodist Church statement.
The session was held to vote on the disaffiliation approval of 294 of 598 United Methodist Churches.
Officials within the denomination said every disaffiliating church met the required steps for disaffiliation which include a discernment period, a vote from the local church, payment in full for both the previous year’s apportionment and current year’s apportionment, and coverage of unfunded pension liability.
The Special Session vote by delegates to approve the churches' disaffiliation was the final step in the process.
“As we enter into the Advent season, I am encouraged by the hope of new beginnings for our all of our United Methodist Churches and am praying for both those under the leadership of Bishop Harvey and for those who are leaving,” representatives said in a release.
The split and disaffiliations come as the UMC expands into more conservative areas of the world, according to the Texas Tribune.
The following churches in Southeast Texas have chosen to disaffiliate from the denomination:
- First UMC in Anahuac
- Forest Park UMC in Beaumont
- Wesley UMC in Beaumont
- Watson Chapel UMC in Bleakwood
- St. Paul UMC in Bridge City
- First UMC in Buna
- Call UMC in Call
- China UMC in China
- Crystal Beach UMC Bay Vue
- Daisetta UMC in Daisetta
- Devers UMC in Devers
- Hardin UMC in Hardin
- St Matthew UMC in High Island
- First UMC in Kountze
- South Liberty UMC in Liberty
- Woodcrest UMC in Lumberton
- Magnolia Springs UMC in Magnolia Springs
- First UMC in Nederland
- Wesley UMC in Nederland
- First UMC in Newton
- Faith UMC in Orange
- UM Temple in Port Arthur
- Bolivar UMC in Port Bolivar
- First UMC in Port Neches
- First UMC in Silsbee
- Spurger UMC in Spurger
- First UMC in Vidor
- Middleton Memorial UMC in Wallisville
- Village Mills UMC in Wildwood
The following churches in Southeast Texas have chosen to stay with the denomination:
- Anahuac UMC
- Beaumont UMC
- Crystal Beach UMC
- Kountze UMC
- Wildwood UMC
According to the Texas tribune, some congregations in Texas those chose to disaffiliate from the denomination are set to a join a the Global Methodist Church, a new and more conservative breakaway denomination. It is unknown of any of the Southeast Texas churches listed above will join that
The UMC debates can be traced back to the 1970s. As progressive social movements such as the sexual revolution began to flourish, members of the UMC attempted to change the denominations views issues including gay rights.
During a UMC meeting that took place in 1972, Don Hand, a San Antonio lawyer and Methodist layman sought what he thought was a compromise on the issue: An amendment to the faith group’s doctrinal stances that said all people were created equal by God, but that homosexuality was nonetheless “incompatible” with Christian beliefs. “We do not condone the practice of homosexuality, and consider this practice incompatible with Christian doctrine,” Hand, wrote at the time.
That 16-word addition, known as the “incompatibility clause,” has only grown more contentious in the 50 years since, as Americans — including many Methodists — increasingly accept same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, the denomination has increasingly expanded globally, giving more power to voting blocs from conservative countries. And, after the United States legalized same-sex marriage, American ministers were forced to decide whether they’d condone gay marriage.