Nearly 200 churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church (UMC) on Sunday, becoming the next wave of churches in Alabama to leave to distinguish themselves from progressives.
During a special session in Mobile, over a third of the conference elected to part ways with the UMC, totaling 193 churches.
The Alabama-West Florida Conference covers nearly all of South Alabama, alongside Florida’s Panhandle.
The split is nothing new. It’s part of an ongoing process for individual congregations to choose whether to remain a part of the UMC, become independent or join other Methodist denominations.
The Methodist movement runs even deeper, however. It was started by John Wesley to reform the Church of England. In the United States, the Methodist Church split from the Church of England after the War for Independence.
Since then, the UMC has undergone various divisions, mergers and cultural changes. It began ordaining women in the mid-20th century, has supported federal gun control and was once a part of the pro-abortion Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) before withdrawing in 2016.
The UMC officially condemns homosexual activity and does not allow same-sex weddings or pastors who are "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” but the issue of homosexuality is widely debated within the denomination.
These issues, underpinned by theological disagreements, eventually led traditional Methodists in the UMC to push for a process of separation that allowed churches to separate while retaining their church property.
Church property has been an issue for seceding churches in other denominations, such as the Anglican churches that left the Episcopalian Church over the last few decades.
Seceding churches can retain church property by paying a substantial fee to the UMC, which helps pay for unfunded pension liabilities and two years of apportionments.
Churches that wish to leave the denomination and retain church property have until December to elect to disaffiliate.
Late last year, 198 churches in North Alabama left the UMC. Several joined the more traditional Global Methodist Church, which officially launched in May 2022.
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