Nearly 200 United Methodist churches have voted to leave the denomination at a time when differing views on LGBTQ topics have shaken the church.
The churches, 198 of them, were part of the 638-member North Alabama Conference which reaches from north of Montgomery to the Tennessee state line. To bring about disaffiliation, churches had to receive a vote of 66.7% of their congregations in favor of leaving.
Same sex marriage and the ordaining of openly gay clergy are the two primary subjects that are bringing about the division. Officially, the Methodist church still has a ban on gay marriage and gay ordained officials. As a result of the changing views in the church, many conservatives have left.
The Rev. Vaughn Stafford, senior pastor of Clearbranch Church in Trussville, said the church needs to refocus on a more traditional view of Methodism.
“It’s time to get back to the main things of the church,” he said. “Our heart has been to contend for the historic Christian church.”
Two of the largest Methodist churches in north Alabama – Asbury in Madison and Cove at Owens Cross Roads – said they will leave in order to join the Foundry movement. The movement’s goal is to unite churches that have a more traditional view. Asbury has a membership of 3,504 members and Cove has 1,483 members.
Other churches either haven’t voted on the issue or are remaining independent for now. One of the larger Methodist churches in Alabama, Vestavia Hills United Methodist, will stay independent.
Stafford and other church leaders say that there is no animosity or hard feelings because of the split and that the mission of all Methodist churches will stay the same.
“We all totally agree that our goal is to love God with everything we’ve got, and love our neighbor as ourselves,” he said.
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.