More than 100 churches in Florida are fed up with the far-left cultural wokeness of their denomination and are taking legal action.
The churches have joined a lawsuit against a regional body of the United Methodist Church in a bid to seek fair terms to leave over LGBTQ issues, the Daily Wire reported.
The congregations filed their legal action last week against the UMC’s Florida Annual Conference in the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial Circuit for Bradford County, Civil Division, the report continued.
“The Annual Conference has taken the position that it is entitled to keep the Grace UMC Property — which was owned and paid for by Grace UMC long before The UMC and the Annual Conference ever existed — unless Grace UMC pays a substantial payment of money as unilaterally determined by the Annual Conference Defendant,” says the lawsuit, which was cited by the outlet.
The Daily Wire adds:
Grace United Methodist Church of Lawtey, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, argued it should not be forced to buy its property from the regional body because it purchased the location before the denomination was founded in 1968.
The Florida churches are represented by the National Center for Life & Liberty.
“The reason the lawsuit was filed was that the 106 churches believed that the Florida Annual Conference is not being equitable in creating a split that they’re able to successfully minister in the communities for the Gospel,” the group’s CFO, Jonathan Bailie, said in an interview with The Christian Post.
“The churches are frustrated with the annual conference’s violations of the Book of Discipline and refusal to honor the Traditional Plan as outlined in the 2019 General Conference,” he added.
The issues came to a head recently when Kenneth Carter, the Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, would not take actions against an openly lesbian bishop in St. Petersburg, The Tallahassee Democrat reported.
After churches attempted to break from the state’s Methodist governing body, they were informed that they would be charged a massive fine amid claims that “all properties” are held in the trust of the denomination.
Carter responded in a statement on Tuesday after the suit was filed.
“We are deeply grieved by this, as we seek to be a church united in love and in mission,” he said.
“The Florida Annual Conference is committed to providing a ‘gracious exit’ for those churches that wish to depart, pursuant to our common process outlined in The Book of Discipline, and have been trying to engage those churches in that process,” he added.
The statement went on to express some concerns about the ability to ensure that retired clergy receive their pensions while also being able to continue supporting groups within the denomination like youth camps and children’s homes.
“The churches in dispute are part of a movement of more conservative congregations within the UMC that oppose the denomination’s efforts to condone same-sex marriage ceremonies and ordain LGBTQ clergy members,” The Daily Wire reported.
“The denomination’s Book of Discipline holds that same-sex activity is ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’ and bans participation in same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
In addition, there is concern about where the departing churches will go for new denominational relationships. In May, 107 Florida congregations said they planned to join the newly formed Global Methodist Church, or GMC, because it is viewed as a theologically conservative alternative to the current United Methodist Church.
“This broad group of churches include both large and small congregations along with Anglo, African American, Latino, Korean, and other ethnic communities of faith,” the Florida chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) noted in a statement.
The group’s president, Jay Therrell, claimed that the UMC left them rather than the other way around.
“We are not leaving The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has left us,” Therrell said in the statement.
“After a decades-long rise of theological liberalism, the selective enforcement of our denominational laws, and a strong surge in the promotion of partisan politics, our churches long for the day of being able to unite with like-minded Christians who focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus and help people to be transformed by His salvation,” he added.