First United Methodist Church of LaGrange to vote on disaffiliation

Published 9:45 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

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On Sunday afternoon, members of the First United Methodist Church in LaGrange will vote on whether to remain affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Since 2019, thousands of the nearly 30,000 UMC in the United States have held similar votes. According to the church, at least 6,225 have chosen to disaffiliate so far.

Many of those disaffiliations are from the South, including Georgia, which has seen 362 exits since 2019, according to a running count on the church’s news website,

In a study published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership in June, the departing churches are predominantly from the church’s Southeastern and South Central jurisdictions.

The schism originates amid debates over sexuality, theology and the role of LGBTQ people within the church.

The disaffiliations began in 2019, when UMC opened a four-year window for U.S. congregations to decide on their own disaffiliate over LGBTQ-related issues.

Current United Methodist church law forbids the marriage or ordination of “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” but many churches have chosen to leave amid open defiance of the ban by other UMC churches.

Many of the departing congregations are moving to the Global Methodist Church, which was created last year by traditionalists breaking from the UMC.

Many believe progressives within the church will propose changing church law at the next General Conference in 2024 to allow for same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ people.

The United Methodist Church is not alone in the schism. Several other large Protestant denominations in the U.S. have begun to fracture over the issue, including Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations.

Like other churches, LFUMC began the process of discernment regarding its affiliation with the United Methodist Church. The LGFUMC Church Council unanimously voted on Dec. 13, 2022, to request a Church Conference to vote on the issue of disaffiliation. Two weeks later, on Dec. 28, the North Georgia Conference paused all discussions and actions related to disaffiliation.

The issue was then taken to court by 185 churches and Superior Court Judge Stephen Schuster ordered the North Georgia Conference to allow the churches to vote on potential disaffiliation.

“The topic of disaffiliation is painful for all who have committed themselves to advancing the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ through the United Methodist Church,” said Dr. John Beyers, Senior Minister of The First United Methodist Church of LaGrange. “There is no joy in watching the church you love deeply going through a splintering.”

Beyers noted that the congregation has stepped up to meet every challenge over the past 195 years that the LaGrange First Methodist Church has worshiped at the corner of Broad and Trinity.

“Since our founding in 1828, important decisions have been made by this church to define its witness across the years: first in 1844, then in 1939 and again in 1968 when the church affiliated with the United Methodist Church,” Beyers stated. “This Sunday, our members will determine if we remain part of the United Methodist Church or decide to affiliate with another Methodist denomination such as the traditionalist Global Methodist Church.”

Page Estes, Director of Operations and Stewardship for LFUMC, said the vote will be held during a special meeting on Sunday, Aug. 13 at 2:30 p.m.

Only professing members of the church who are present will be allowed to vote. Voters do not have to be an adult. Younger people who have gone through confirmation can vote on the issue.

Currently, the church property is held in a trust clause, which means that the assets of a local church are held in trust for the benefit of the entire denomination. The local church is responsible for the maintenance and operations of the property. If LFUMC chooses to disaffiliate, the ownership reverts to the local church, Estes said.

Estes said nothing with the vote will be final until it is ratified at the church’s annual conference in November.