The Alabama Supreme Court agreed last Friday to hear oral arguments in Harvest Church's lawsuit against the United Methodist Church (UMC).
Harvest Church in Dothan is suing the UMC over a property dispute after the church announced it was disaffiliating from the denomination months ago.
The lawsuit by Harvest Church against the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Inc. and the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church was delayed in Houston County Circuit Court in May pending a review by the Alabama Supreme Court.
Oral arguments are set for 10 a.m. on February 7 in the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery.
Harvest Church has approximately 3,000 congregants, according to its lawsuit filed in November 2022.
Robert Northcutt, an attorney for the Alabama-West Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church, said in a motion to dismiss filing in February, "[T]his is a church dispute involving significant ecclesiastical issues and should be resolved in accordance with church law and process."
"The Harvest Church Complaint is based on the false premise that somehow a UMC church that has been associated with the UMC and AWFC (Alabama-West Florida Conference) for 25 years; that received financial and other benefits from the AWFC for 25 years; that received financial and other benefits from the AWFC; participated in AWFC annual conferences; accepted annual appointments of UMC ministers from the AWFC; paid apportionments to the AWFC, as well as other pension and insurance obligations for the benefit of AWFC ministers; represented to the AWFC that church property was subject to the trust clause; and represented in numerous documents that it is a local church within the UMC; is somehow not really part of the UMC or AWFC," he added in the filing. "This case involves a local church that has been part of the UMC for decades, benefitted by that membership, but has decided to disaffiliate and not follow church law governing disaffiliation, church property, financial obligations, and other responsibilities that Harvest committed to follow by joining the UMC."
Harvest Church lead pastor Ralph Sigler said in a video in April about why Harvest had left the UMC that the denomination was moving in a direction against the Bible, it was breaking its own bylaws, and "it's doing really irreparable damage to the people Jesus died for, people who are caught in sin which all of us were, specifically people who are involved in practicing homosexuality."
"In the United Methodist Church, unfortunately, there are a number of pastors who will say the Bible contains God's word but that not all of it is God's word, so they end up kind of picking and choosing which parts are part of God's word and which parts are not," Sigler said. "Homosexual practices are condemned in the Bible in the strongest of terms, and yet the direction of the Methodist Church is to say this is not sin or not a problem."
Sigler continued, "[C]urrently, thousands of churches are leaving the Methodist Church because it's moving towards heresy."
"It's becoming an apostate church, and those who are going to stay faithful to God must leave to follow Jesus," he added. "People's tithes and offerings our leaders feel are holy (and) they shouldn't be used to prop up an apostate denomination. It's the belief of our leaders that we don't want to leave any money for that purpose that's been given for the glory of God unless a judge tells us we have to. That's really why we are moving in the direction (and) we're moving away from the denomination."
Hundreds of churches in Alabama have disaffiliated from the UMC in recent months, mainly over theological disagreements.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.