ATHENS, Ga. — The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to allow 261 congregations to break from the denomination amid a schism over theological differences and the role of LGBTQ+ people in the church.
The conference ratified the disaffiliation requests from the congregations during a special session Saturday, allowing the churches to leave the denomination, news outlets report. The exit marked a “solemn day,” the North Georgia Conference of the UMC said in a news release.
The United Methodist Church has long debated its bans on same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly LGBTQ+ clergy. The denomination forbids the marriage or ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” but some U.S. churches and clergy have defied the bans. Many conservatives have chosen to leave amid a growing defiance of those bans.
So far 7,286 congregations, many in the South and Midwest, have received approval to disaffiliate from the denomination since 2019, according to an unofficial tally by United Methodist News Service. Most of the disaffiliations, more than 5,000, occurred this year.
Conservatives launched a new Global Methodist Church.