Two congregations in Savannah, Ga. leave the UMC and merge
One of the largest Protestant denominations in the U.S. lost two congregations over a likely move toward greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons in the United Methodist Church (UMC).
Savannah, Ga. churches Asbury Memorial and Wesley Oak voted to leave the South Georgia Conference, the equivalent of a diocese or synod, of the UMC. The churches are small with Asbury averaging 287 members in Sunday worship while Wesley Oak brought in about 30 members in Sunday worship.
Like many Christian denominations in the U.S., the UMC has agonized over its history of pushing its LGBTQ members to the margins because of teachings inherited from the Church of England, and before that the Catholic Church, that homosexuality is a sin.
The Church does not allow the ordination of sexually active LGBTQ persons into ministry, nor do they permit the blessing of same-sex marriages.
Despite this, there is a strong movement within the denomination to adopt full inclusion of LGBTQ persons, allowing them into the ministry, and blessing same-sex marriages. Some congregations openly welcome LGBTQ persons into their communities and invite them to participate in their worship and social programming.
This past Pride month, UMC congregations across the country felt free to fly variations of the LGBTQ flag on church property.
In 2019, the UMC General Conference convened and decided to uphold the theology of homosexuality as "imcompatible with Christian teaching."
Despite the ruling, it looked like the conversation was moving in the direction of adopting inclusivity in the future as the movement for it grows.
Asbury and Wesley Oak decided it won't wait for that inclusivity to come and will leave the denomination now.
Another General Conference is expected next year. Issues of LGBTQ inclusivity will continue there, as well as coming up with a process for congregations that refuse to move in that direction to leave.
Politically, the UMC is almost split in half. Pew Research shows that the denomination is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are both members of the denomination.