Methodist churches vote to leave UMC conference

Published 3:00 pm Friday, May 12, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Methodist congregations in Andalusia, Florala and Opp will worship together under new names after choosing to officially disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.

The former First United Methodist Church of Andalusia is now the First Methodist Church of Andalusia. The local churches are among 193 to leave the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church following a vote at a special-called session of the conference on Sunday, May 7.

“In light of what is taking place in the United Methodist Church on a denominational level, First Methodist Church of Andalusia remains the same theologically and doctrinally after the disaffiliation as before,” said Ken Jackson, pastor at First Methodist Church of Andalusia. “The name has changed to reflect our association with the Global Methodist Church. We are people who believe in the inerrancy of scripture, that salvation is the free gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ and we are called to be witnesses in word and deed to our community. We see ourselves as chipped, crack, broken vessels at our very best. But we also know that the redeeming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ does not leave us in that broken state. We have been and will continue to be in ministry to all people in our community. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said ‘the world is my parish.’ That is the heart of our being a church to the community, not just a church in the community.”

According to the Alabama-West Florida Conference, the 193 churches leaving the conference fulfilled obligations outlined by the “Book of Discipline” and the conference trustees, including items such as unfunded pension liability, post-retirement medical liability, and two years of apportionment.

The conference also noted that, as of May 7, 2023, the majority of churches in the conference will remain United Methodist. Currently, 318 churches continue to operate in the United Methodist connectional system and remain a part of the Alabama-West Florida Conference and the United Methodist Church.

“Today is a somber day in the life of the Alabama-West Florida Conference,” stated Bishop David Graves, resident bishop of the conference, following the votes. “We grieve in saying farewell to the 193 churches disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church and wish them the best in ministry. Many of these churches have dedicated clergy and laity who truly desire to serve God and their communities. We pray for these churches as they navigate ministry in a new season.”

Other area churches that voted to disaffiliate from the conference are: Brewton UMC, East Brewton UMC, Enterprise First UMC, Kinston UMC, Providence UMC in Georgiana, St. Paul UMC in Greenville, among others.

In June of 2022, at the regularly scheduled annual conference, five churches disaffiliated and at the November special session 35 disaffiliated, bringing the total to 233. Churches can vote to leave the UMC through the end of 2023.

The conference recently announced that eleven new church starts are being formed under the direction of Rev. Jean Tippit. None of the announced starts are within Covington County.