Why Congregations Aren’t Waiting to Leave the United Methodist Church

With a denominational split delayed, some are willing to pay big to exit now.

Caught in a decades-long battle over LGBT issues, with a proposed denominational split delayed again by the pandemic, dozens of conservative and progressive churches are leaving the United Methodist Church (UMC) without a tidy exit plan.

Two years ago, factions in the United Methodist Church (UMC) agreed on a plan for splitting the denomination with conservative churches keeping their property as they leave. But the UMC has twice postponed its General Conference and won ’t meet until August 2022 to vote on the proposal, called the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.”

A United Methodist News review of US annual conference reports and publicly available journals found that the 54 conferences—regional UMC governing bodies—approved at least 51 disaffiliations in 2020. Annual conference reports for 2021 show that the annual conferences have approved 38 disaffiliations so far in 2021.

Though the disaffiliations represent a sliver of the more than 31,000 United Methodist churches nationwide, they show that some churches are willing to take the hard way out of the UMC.

“For us, we felt the Lord was leading us to go. As far as the protocol is concerned, it ’s something that is up in the air,” said Alvin Talkington, a member of the disaffiliation team at Boyce Church, a 100-member congregation in Ohio that left the denomination last fall.

The decision to leave came after years of frustration with the East Ohio Conference for not valuing the church’s conservative doctrinal stance on issues such as homosexuality and not finding conservative ministers to serve the church.

“Out of the last ten pastors, there might have been three or four who fit our doctrine,” …

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