Vestavia Hills United Methodist, others seek to disaffiliate from denomination: Update on split
Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church and 10 other north Alabama congregations voted Sunday to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church and most are considering joining a new conservative movement, church leaders say.
The 11 who voted on Sunday brings the total to about 86 congregations in the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church who voted to leave, out of 638 congregations in the conference, said Reverend Vaughn Stafford, pastor of Clearbranch Church in Trussville.
Clearbranch and about 27 other churches are planning votes this coming week, out of about 50 congregations, Stafford expects to have votes by Dec. 10, the special meeting called when the North Alabama Conference is expected to approve the disaffiliations.
“We are all still United Methodists until December 10,” Stafford said.
“The majority of churches will continue (as United Methodists),” said Danette Clifton, spokesperson for the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Further disaffiliation votes could still take place until the end of next year, she said. She could not confirm Stafford’s tally of the number of churches that have voted to disaffiliate so far.
“I don’t have an actual number,” Clifton said. “There are several steps in this process and congregational votes are just one of them. We will have our special session called the annual conference on December 10th and that is when everything will be finalized. Only then will we be sure of the number.
Under current rules, departing churches must negotiate to take their property with them and may have to pay clergy pension obligations and distributions to the annual conference they are leaving.
Here are the churches that voted to leave Nov. 13, according to Stafford, with most planning to join the new Methodist World Church:
Rocky Mount-Disaffiliation Vote-100%
St Paul (Ft Payne) – Disaffiliation Vote – 100%
Wesley Chapel (Fayette)-Disaffiliation Vote-100%
Asbury (Ft Payne) – Disaffiliation Vote – 100%
Bethlehem (Fayette) – Disaffiliation vote – 100%
Pleasant Hill (Springville)-Disaffiliation Vote-95.8%
Fayette FUMC-Disaffiliation vote-96.5%
The Gathering Place-Disaffiliation vote-100%
Christ Harbor-Disaffiliation Vote-100%
Ft Payne’s First Disaffiliation Vote – 93%
Vestavia Hills-Disaffiliation Vote-79.5%
Even though the denomination has repeatedly voted to maintain its traditional stance on marriage as only between one man and one woman, conservatives complain that denomination progressives have repeatedly ignored the rules.
Many conservatives are upset that the denomination does not enforce its ban on blessing same-sex unions.
“I don’t think that’s the main reason (for the split),” Stafford said. “We have very different interpretations of the nature, role and authority of Scripture. We have very different interpretations of the nature, role and authority of Jesus. Traditional Methodists believe he is the way, the truth and the life. It’s not one of the ways. They didn’t kill him for doing good things or saying sweet things. They killed him because he claimed to be the son of the living God.
Church members who vote to leave the United Methodist denomination are welcoming to all and will continue to be so, he said.
“Traditional Methodist churches have and will always love every person who walks through the door,” Stafford said. “We always have and they always will. It is about having alliances, laws, which unite us. If you don’t have an alliance, you have chaos.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference voted earlier this year to approve the disaffiliation of several congregations that had requested it, including Frazer Memorial Church in Montgomery.
The Frazer Church, which has 7,000 members, is the largest congregation in Alabama to leave the United Methodist Church and was once known as the largest congregation in Alabama in the denomination.
With a long-awaited split from The United Methodist Church once again delayed after the denomination’s national meeting was pushed back a third time to 2024, unrest that had been pending during the pandemic has resurfaced this year. .
The Tories have announced they are moving forward with the launch of the Methodist World Church on May 1, but many churches may choose to stay in the fold until 2024, when a plan could be enacted that would facilitate the departure of the United Methodist Church.
Stafford, as president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association of Alabama, said his organization was monitoring the votes and he reported that the following 86 North Alabama Conference congregations voted to leave, in alphabetical order:
Addington Chapel Center
Asbury (Ft. Payne)
Chapel Hill (Decatur)
Church of Christ in Bham
Port of Christ
Detroit UMC (Unity Church)
Fort Payne FUMC
Green’s Chapel (Lexington)
Julia Street Memorial
Lee’s Central Chapel
Marvin Chapel (Carolton)
Mount Carmel (Cullman)
Mount Bethel (Rogersville)
Brasher’s New Chapel
New Hope (Scottsboro)
Pleasant Hill (Florence)
Pleasant Hill (Springville)
Rainbow City First
St. Andrews (Sylacauga)
St. Marks (Northport)
Saint Paul (Boaz)
St. Paul (Ft Payne)
The gathering place
Center of Vestavia Hills
Wesley Chapel (Sylacauga)
Wesley Memorial (Fayette)