Local pastors explain why nearly 200 congregations left the United Methodist Church

By Sean Dowling

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – United Methodists across North Alabama are no longer so “united” as churches and congregants are headed in different directions.

This comes after nearly 200 congregations officially left the denomination during a special conference this weekend. Several Alabama pastors explained the reason for the breakup.

It all came down to language, a difference of opinion, and what could happen in the future. The senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, Brian Erickson explains why the split is so difficult.

“I think with any breakup like this, any splintering, there is anger,” Erickson said. “There’s grief in every form.”

That grief was seen during the special session of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church on Saturday. The conference had 638 congregations at the start of the day. By the end, 440 remained, and 198 officially cut ties.

Senior pastor, Mitchell Williams of Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville explains why they were able to cut ties.

“According to the rule book that we have, the only reason you can leave is over this issue, over the issues of differences of opinion on that, differences of understanding of the scriptures on that,” Williams said.

Pastor Williams is talking about the language that was added to the Book of Discipline in 2019, which allowed the churches to disaffiliate over issues related to human sexuality.

The UMC does not ordain LGBTQ+ clergy or perform same-sex weddings, but the pastors said some feared that could change.

The churches that left the affiliation did not have an issue with LGBTQ+ members being part of the congregation, but Pastor Erickson says they were concerned about where things were headed in the future.

“I think it is fair to say that those 198 congregations who have disaffiliated did so because they were concerned that there may be more openness in the denomination to fully welcoming LGBTQ+ folks going forward,” Erickson said.

WAFF 48 reached out to several local churches in the area that are departing the congregation, and pastors either passed on an interview or did not want to comment.

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