by Ryan Bailey
Have you ever found yourself having to make a hard decision, where each choice can run the risk of alienating those you love? Many members of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in locations across Arkansas and the nation are having to do just that.
Thousands of UMC locations have already voted on whether they would disaffiliate with the parent church. This vote is over disagreements regarding homosexuality, the LGBTQ community, and the religious doctrine that pertains to it. More specifically, those voting for disaffiliating from the UMC are against those from the LGBTQ community being able to marry in the church, and for practicing homosexual individuals to be in leadership.
Those choosing to leave the UMC will have the opportunity to become a church of a different name. According to an article in May 2022 in The Tennessean, “The new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, splintered from the United Methodist Church as part of a schism primarily over LGBTQ rights. The Global Methodist Church will be a home for Methodist churches that hold more ‘traditionalist’ stances on sexuality and gender.”
A March 2023 article in The Coastland Times in North Carolina, states that at that time, over 2,300 congregations had left the denomination since the 2019 General Conference. In Arkansas, a total of 35 Arkansas churches had disaffiliated from the UMC denomination on November 19, 2022, according to Northwest Arkansas news channel 40/29TV.
According to an article on ArkansasOnline.com, the State Conference is expecting between 75-100 churches will disaffiliate and seek ratification at the upcoming Special Session for Annual Conference. There is a current list below.
Upon disaffiliation, the church members would be required to purchase the building from the UMC. According to the North Georgia Conference of the UMC at www.ngumc.org, “A Disaffiliating church is required to pay any unpaid apportionments (tithes) for the 12 months immediately prior to the disaffiliation date, and an additional 12 months of apportionments.”
Member churches in Benton, Bryant and Salem in Saline County, Arkansas, all voted to stay with the United Methodist Church. So I travelled to the Mabelvale United Methodist Church, where on Friday evening, May 5, 2023, the church members met to vote. I arrived after church service two days later, to get statements from some of the church members on the potential seismic change coming to their hometown church.
“We did vote to disaffiliate,” stated church member Goldie Haynes.
Issues regarding the LGBTQ community and religious doctrine have always been controversial, but Sue Clark stated, “We aren’t unhappy with each other. There is no war within our church. We just want to get to a place where we all feel comfortable.”
Lola Perritt added, “I literally love every person that’s in that church, and I would do anything for them. The idea of anybody leaving the church because they’re dissatisfied would just break my heart.”
Good feelings seem to abound within the members of the Mabelvale UMC… but what about those who may feel differently? I also spoke with church member Weesa Boyd, who said she personally refused to vote on the issue. “There are other, underlying things that they wouldn’t let us bring up. I’ve read a lot and watched a lot of movies… and I just didn’t think they (he UMC) were following the Bible.”
A church member who wished to be anonymous stated that the vote tally on Friday night at Mabelvale UMC was 38 for disaffiliating, 9 to stay, and 2 people abstained from the vote.
Opinions are mixed regarding the issue, with everyone else I approached refusing to comment. It is understandably a very important and sensitive issue.
There is an event coming to ultimately decide whether to allow those disaffiliating churches to leave the UMC. According to the United Methodists of Arkansas website, Bishop Laura Merrill, with concurrence of the District Superintendents and in accordance with ¶603.5 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, has called a Special In-Person Session of the Arkansas Annual Conference to be held in Horner Hall at the Hot Springs Convention Center on Saturday, May 13, 2023 from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Learn more at arumc.org/may-2023-annual-conference-special-session.
Below are names of Arkansas churches that the ARUMC website has listed as those who are seeking disaffiliation. This list will likely grow before they meet, given that Mabelvale is not listed yet.
Adona UMC, Alpena UMC, Altheimer UMC, Bradley UMC, Cecil UMC, Cedar Grove (Yellville) UMC, Chickalah UMC, Congo UMC, Dardanelle First UMC, Dumas Memorial UMC, Everton UMC, Good Hope UMC, Greenbrier First UMC, Harmony Emmet UMC, Harmony Grove UMC, Hartman UMC, Hebron (New Edinburgh) UMC, Holiday Hills UMC, Horatio UMC, Hunter UMC, Liberty Hall UMC, Little Missouri UMC, McNeil UMC, Midland Heights UMC, Mountain View – Mena UMC, Naylor UMC, New Salem UMC, First UMC Pine Bluff, Pleasant Ridge UMC, Plummerville UMC, Red Hill UMC, Shiloh (Dry Fork) UMC, Timothy UMC, Vesta UMC, Wesley (Cotter) UMC, Wye Mountain UMC.
Watch MySaline.com for updates to this story.
Read more articles by Ryan Bailey. Ryan works in the tech field and is a freelance writer. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UA Little Rock. Ryan is a Saline County transplant and learns more about the community with each article. In his free time, you can see him hiking Pinnacle Mountain with his girlfriend, or playing video games on a rainy day.