A Texas megachurch has voted to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church due to the mainline Protestant denomination’s ongoing debate over homosexuality as over 200 churches in the Lone Star State are considering disaffiliation.
The Woodlands Methodist Church, a congregation with approximately 14,200 members located in Woodlands, Texas, voted on Sunday to leave the UMC Texas Annual Conference.
According to an announcement from the church, about 3,000 members gathered at the church on Sunday and about 2,678 members — or 96.3% of those voting — supported disaffiliation.
Senior Pastor Mark Sorensen posted a video on the church’s website saying that the vote affirmed that “we are united in one vision and one clear mission.”
“We are ready to move on past the division and the differences that have been an ongoing distraction in our denomination for far too long,” said Sorensen. “Remember, we are changing to stay the same. With this vote, we are preserving the ministry that we know and love.”
Sorensen “offered a blessing” to those who wanted to remain in the UMC, suggesting it is “time to bless one another, even as we go our separate ways.”
“In this there is no victory, in this there is no winner or loser,” he added. “We are called to pray for and lift up others in whatever ministry God has calling us to now and in the future.”
According to the UMC Texas Annual Conference, more than 210 member congregations are considering disaffiliation from the denomination as of late July.
The conference will host a special session on Dec. 3 in Houston that will, among other things, include officially recognizing the departure of churches that have taken the necessary steps toward disaffiliation.
Woodlands is not the only congregation to disaffiliatee from the Texas Conference on Sunday. The 1,300-member Faithbridge of Spring, Texas, approved disaffiliation when all 549 members present for the vote supported leaving.
“I’m … realistic about where the denomination is heading, and so I have no second thoughts,” said Faithbridge Senior Pastor Ken Werlein, as reported by UM News. “We’ve done the right thing, the smart thing, the wise thing to keep Faithbridge Faithbridge.”
Over the past several years, the UMC has faced a polarizing debate and schism over whether the United States’ second largest Protestant denomination should maintain its official stance banning the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of noncelibate homosexual clergy.
Although theological liberals within the denomination have failed to change the official rules, many of them in positions of leadership have refused to enforce the existing rules highlighted in the UMC Book of Discipline, causing much frustration among theological conservatives.
Across the United States, many congregations have left or are considering disaffiliating from the UMC. Many have joined the Global Methodist Church, a newly created conservative Methodist denomination.