Methodists approve disaffiliation

Published 4:40 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

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FAYETTEVILLE – By an overwhelming majority, representatives from United Methodist churches in eastern North Carolina approved a measure here Nov. 19 to allow 249 churches to disaffiliate themselves from the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Fourteen of those churches are located in the Roanoke-Chowan area. They, along with 235 others, requested disaffiliations over matters of conscience related to human sexuality.

“There is a difference of opinion when it comes to if the church should ordain ministers who are in same-sex marriages or would perform same sex marriages,” said Derek Leek, Director of Communications for the North Carolina Conference, during a telephone interview with this newspaper.

The R-C area Untied Methodist churches whose requests for disaffiliation were approved are Harrellsville, Powellsville, Windsor, Woodland, Bethany (Milwaukee), Concord (Pleasant Hill), Conway, Jackson, Pleasant Grove (Seaboard), Rehoboth (Jackson), Seaboard, Severn, Sharon (Margarettsville), and Zion (Conway).

The membership of the 249 churches represents approximately 22 percent of the total membership of the North Carolina Conference.

“Since many of these votes were not unanimous, we know there are more that want to stay United Methodist,” the NC Conference stated in a press release. “While portrayed as a traditionalist/progressive split, both traditionalist and progressive United Methodists are staying and remaining committed to the mission of The United Methodist Church. People in churches that voted to disaffiliate wishing to remain United Methodist can move their membership to another United Methodist Church or move their membership to a new faith community in the Conference until they find a new church home.

“We mourn that there are those compelled to leave The United Methodist Church,” the press release continued. “These are people we have studied with, worshiped with, communed with, and shared in ministry. We have laughed together and cried together. We love our brothers and sisters. We pray they find a home where they can be in fruitful ministry and mission.

“Moving forward, our churches will continue to be safe havens for all seeking a personal relationship with God, places of welcome, respect, belonging, understanding, and love,” the press release concluded.

When asked what becomes of the church buildings and property where the disaffiliated congregations now gather for worship, Leek said there is a process for those congregations to retain their real and personal, tangible and intangible property, as long as all stipulations are met as outlined in Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline.

The complete process requires a two-thirds approval vote of eligible church members in each church wishing to disaffiliate and then ratification by a majority of the members of Annual Conference. Ratified disaffiliations are effective Dec. 31, 2022 as long as the church completes all parts of the agreement by that date.

At the Nov. 19 special meeting held on the campus of Methodist University in Fayetteville, the result of the vote to approve disaffiliations was 957 in favor and 165 in opposition.

Before announcing the results of the vote, Bishop Leonard E. Fairley, the episcopal leader who presided over the conference, asked two things: 1) that people reach out and hold hands with the people around them while he prayed, and 2) that there be no applause or inappropriate displays at the reading of the vote.

The North Carolina Conference is one of 54 conferences of The United Methodist Church in the United States. It encompasses 56 counties in eastern North Carolina, from Elon to the coast and from the South Carolina border to the Virginia border.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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