A congregation that is said to be the largest United Methodist Church body in Mississippi voted overwhelmingly to leave the mainline Protestant denomination.
Christ United Methodist Church of Jackson voted Sunday to disaffiliate from the UMC Mississippi Conference after months of discernment over whether to join the thousands of congregations that have left the denomination amid the schism over the UMC stance on homosexuality.
The conference is slated to confirm or reject the congregation’s vote at a special session in December. The church plans to change its name to “Christ United – Jackson” on Jan. 1, 2024.
According to a statement emailed to Christ UMC members, the final vote was 717 (86.39%) in favor of disaffiliating, with 112 (13.49%) opposed to leaving the UMC. To approve disaffiliation, a two-thirds majority was needed.
The congregation will meet Thursday night to plan the next steps for those interested in remaining with the UMC once the disaffiliation has been finalized.
The Christian Post contacted Christ United Methodist Church of Jackson for this story. However, a spokesperson said the church is declining comment.
Although the UMC Book of Discipline prohibits the blessing of same-sex weddings and the ordination of people in same-sex unions and efforts to change it have failed, many progressive leaders within the UMC have refused to enforce or follow the rules.
This has drawn the ire of many theological conservatives within the UMC, who were granted a pathway to disaffiliation.
UM News reports that, as of Thursday morning, more than 6,500 congregations have disaffiliated since 2019, with most having left in the past two years.
About half of the departing congregations have affiliated with the Global Methodist Church, a theologically conservative alternative to the UMC launched last year.
According to UM Data, as of 2021, Christ UMC has an official membership of more than 1,900 people, with an average worship attendance of nearly 750 individuals. In 2004, the church had a membership of 5,190 and an average attendance of 2,389.
Although The Clarion-Ledger recently identified the church as the “largest” UMC congregation in the state, UMC Mississippi Conference spokesperson Jasmine Haynes told CP that this could not be confirmed, as the regional body is currently in the process of completing their current statistical reports.
Regarding the disaffiliation vote, Haynes said that while “our desire is for everyone to remain in the United Methodist family,” conference leaders “understand that, for several reasons, faith communities, clergy and laity are desiring to leave.”
In June, the Mississippi Annual Conference approved the disaffiliation votes of 189 congregations seeking to leave the UMC, totaling over a fifth of the regional body’s member congregations.
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