Clarification: A paragraph appearing on page 22 of the June 2, 2022, edition of The Journal Sentinel in the article titled "Harmony United Methodist Church votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church" needs correction and clarification.
The paragraph needing correction read as follows: "Some members chose to continue Reidsville United Methodist Church within the United Methodist Church organization. These members are meeting elsewhere in the county and remain as Reidsville United Methodist Church."
The corrections/clarifications are as follows:
Some former Reidsville United Methodist Church members who left the church in June/July of 2021 formed an independent church and are not part of the United Methodist Church denomination. The church is known as Tattnall Community Church & Ministry (TCCM) and meets each Sunday morning for Sunday School at 9 a.m. and church services at 10 a.m. Marc Foster is serving as the pastor of TCCM. Today, this group meets in what they call "The Barn" at 2822 Bubba Kenney Road. Those interested in attending their Sunday School and church services are welcome.
The Reidsville United Methodist Church members who voted in January 2022 to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church denomination have formed Grace Pointe Reidsville with the State of Georgia. They continue to meet in the Reidsville United Methodist Church building as United Methodists until July 6, 2022. Their Disaffiliation Agreement with the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church was ratified on June 6, 2022, at the South Georgia Annual Conference. The disaffiliation will be official 30 days after the vote was ratified, which will be July 6, 2022, and the new Grace Pointe Reidsville will assume all the property of the former Reidsville United Methodist Church.
Harmony United Methodist Church members in attendance at an Official Church Conference on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC). All 58 members present at the church located at 1688 Harmony Church Road in Glennville voted “yes” to leave the United Methodist Church, which is rapidly becoming liberal and progressive in their interpretation of Scripture. The issue is not just on human sexuality, but that is what has concerned most traditional and conservative Methodists.
As stated in the Certificate Regarding Disaffiliation of Harmony United Methodist Church, which was signed by the Harmony pastor, the Rev. Clay Loadman, and William Morgan, Chair of the Board of Trustees, the decision arose “for reasons of conscience over disagreement related to human sexuality, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues.” District Superintendent Steve Grantham presided over the conference on May 25 held in the Harmony church sanctuary.
Rev. Loadman was appointed to Harmony June 23, 2020, and he has been unanimously voted by the members to be kept as their pastor. He has agreed and will be surrendering his Methodist credentials at the August 20 Annual Conference.
One member commented prior to the paper ballot vote that the decision was not easily or lightly taken, and that the basic belief for splitting from the traditional Methodist Church was for the proposed changing and interpretation of the Bible to suit today’s sexual lifestyles.
“It really was a matter of conscience in our relationship with the Lord,” Rev. Loadman said.
The Harmony congregation has not decided on their new name, although the disaffiliation certificate, which is the formal request, will be submitted to the United Methodists of the South Georgia Annual Conference on August 20, 2022, where it will be voted on in this called session of the annual conference.
For a Methodist Church to pass a Certificate of Disaffiliation, two-thirds or greater of the church members attending a conference must agree with the decision.
In essence, Harmony will now become an Independent Church, which is similar to a new church plant. with a new name to be decided on by the church members.
Harmony will be allowed to keep its historical records, with a copy to be made and sent to be stored in perpetuity in the United Methodist Church. Any insignias or signage in the church that is of the United Methodist Church must be removed.
The new disaffiliated Harmony church will be allowed to keep its church building, surrounding grounds, and cemetery, with a payment to be decided upon by the United Methodist Church. The amount that Harmony will pay for pension liability, two years of apportionments, and disaffiliating fees to the Conference are computed quarterly, according Rev. Loadman. He expects the amount will be between $100,000 and $150,000, which does not include attorney fees or startup expenses that will be incurred.
“Harmony is the only church to date that has had a unanimous vote of 100 percent. Our members are steeped in Methodism and will remain Wesleyan in their theology. That will not change, only the name will. The church members were the facilitators in this matter, but I do support them in their decision. My job throughout this process was to supply them with all the information from all sides: the UMC, The Conference, The District, and even the new Global Methodist Church, and what it would mean to stay, leave, seek another denomination, or be independent,” Rev. Loadman said.
Rev. Loadman sent a lengthy letter to all members once the decision to disaffiliate was first passed through Harmony’s Administrative Council. Total church membership is 105 members.
Reidsville United Methodist Church voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church several months ago. The church on Brazell Street has removed its United Methodist Church signage and is now known as Grace Pointe Church. A two-thirds of the majority of the church members voted to do so. The Certificate Regarding Disaffiliation of Reidsville United Methodist Church was signed and this application will be reviewed by the South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church on June 6, 2022. Steve Posey has been serving as this church’s pastor until his last Sunday there on May 8. The members of the new Grace Pointe Church who chose to disaffiliate will now be forced to purchase their church buildings, grounds, and parsonage from the United Methodist Church, even though they have been paid for from within the church itself over the years, from their own coffers.
Some members chose to continue Reidsville United Methodist Church within the United Methodist Church organization. These members are meeting elsewhere in the county and remain as Reidsville United Methodist Church.
The controversy with Methodist churches has revolved around the new leaning of the United Methodist Church toward allowing the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) United Methodists and for these individuals to serve in church leadership positions in the pulpit, and even being appointed as Bishops, the highest position of authority in the UMC.
The Glennville United Methodist Church has not made a decision, but, according to the chair of their church council, they are exploring their options.
Background of issues of United Methodist Church
The South Georgia Annual Conference had planned to vote on a resolution in their June 2022 Conference whether to leave the United Methodist Church to join the Global Methodist Church for reasons of violation of the Covenant of which the United Methodist Church has operated.
However, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled on May 10, 2022, that no Annual Conference can withdraw from the United Methodist Church until the General Conference convenes in 2024.
May 1, 2022, was the launch of the Global Methodist Church, a new theologically conservative denomination splintering from the United Methodist Church. The General Conference, which has overriding authority for all United Methodists, has been postponed until 2024 when it is anticipated to address the issue. This follows after decades of rancorous debate over same-sex marriages and the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.
This came to a head in 2019 at a conference where delegates voted 438-384 to strengthen bans of LGBTQ-inclusive practices. Most U.S.-based delegates opposed that plan and favored LGBTQ-friendly options; they were outvoted by U.S. conservatives teamed with most of the delegates from Methodist strongholds in Africa and the Philippines. In the aftermath of that meeting, many moderate and liberal clergy made clear they would not abide by the bans, and various groups worked on proposals to let the United Methodist Church split along theological lines.
In the General Conference in 2024, which has been delayed several times, hopefully an agreement will be reached to separate amicably. The disagreement between liberals or progressives and the other side of traditionalists or conservatives have been mediated, and a protocol agreement is in place for vote whenever General Conference meets. The postponement of General Conference to 2024 has triggered many churches to leave the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has split several times already, often due to an attempt to embrace the secular instead of scripture.