A Mississippi church has chosen to leave the United Methodist Church over conflicting views on homosexuality, abortion and the teaching of Islam.
The First United Methodist Church of Louisvilledecided to leave the denomination Sunday morning during a “membership affirmation,” said the Rev. Mike Childs. The vote was 175-6 with one member abstaining.
Going forward, the church will be known as First Methodist Church of Louisville.
“While our church will no longer be a member of the United Methodist denomination, it will continue to be a Christ-centered church that is faithful to the Scriptures and the theology of (Methodism founder) John Wesley,” Childs said. “It will forever be a Methodist church but not a United Methodist church.”
Childs said he believes it is in the “best interest of the church and the Mississippi United Methodist Conference” to reach a property settlement out of court.
“We expect both sides to act in good faith and Christian charity,” he said.
A spokesperson with the Mississippi United Methodist Conference was not immediatey availble for comment.
Several factors played into the Louisville church’s decision to leave, Childs said, but congregants largely felt the denomination had strayed from the teachings of the Bible and the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
In recent years, the United Methodist Church has allowed a gay bishop to preach after voting that it violated church law, and has equally affirmed “the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child” when it comes to abortion.
In addition, the United Methodist-rooted Claremont School of Theology opened up clerical training to Muslim and Jewish clergy. (However, the seminary later created separate graduate schools for Muslim and Jewish students, and only the Christian school receives money from the United Methodist Church.)
With those events in mind, the decision was one “our consciences forced us to make,” Childs said.
Visitors to the Louisville church would find a “very loving and welcoming congregation” who believe no sin is greater than another, he said. The church felt the need to separate themselves, however, because they believed the denomination was not “accepting the authority of the Scripture.”
Wednesday night, Bishop James Swanson Sr., Bishop in Residence of the Mississippi Episcopal Area, sent an email to members of the Mississippi Uniter Methodist Conference, asking for prayers for the congregation as they begin the process of separating from the conference.
Childs said that, just as before the vote, all are welcome at his church.
The Louisville church isn’t the first in Mississippi to leave the United Methodist Church. The Orchard in Tupelo and Getwell Road United Methodist Church in Southaven left last year over the denomination’s “intensifying homosexuality debate,” according to the United Methodist Church.