One of the largest United Methodist churches in South Carolina is disassociating itself from the denomination over its ongoing debate concerning homosexuality. Christ United in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has decided to leave the UMC ahead of the February 2019 meeting to determine how the denomination will move forward concerning issues of sexuality.
“The devil has messed things up,” lead pastor Jeff Dunn told the congregation of Christ United in a sermon. Dunn made the announcement that the church was leaving the denomination on September 30, 2018, during a sermon.
“[The devil] has actually derailed a denomination to where right now you have two choices as United Methodists come February. Either we will appear to be condemning of homosexual people or we will be appearing to condone the practice of homosexuality. We refuse to do either one,” Dunn said.
Dunn emphasized the church’s desire to offer God’s grace to change to anyone struggling with any kind of sin, whether the struggle involves gossip, adultery, homosexuality or prejudice. He emphasized the conviction that the decision had come from a “deep love” for people who struggle with same-sex attraction.
This Is Not a Fight With the UMC Over Homosexuality in the Church
The decision to leave is also “respectful” concerning the UMC. Dunn says the leaders of the UMC in South Carolina are “phenomenal” and the church is not upset or viewing this as a fight between the church and the denomination. Dunn expects the steps necessary to release Christ United will not be fulfilled until after the February 2019 meeting. He is encouraging other churches considering leaving the denomination to wait until after that meeting.
As far as Christ United is concerned, the leadership did not arrive at its decision hastily. Dunn says they spent months discussing their options and five intentional weeks praying and fasting, asking God what they should do. The decision to leave was “100 percent unanimous” among the leaders and other members who offered prayerful opinions.
Dunn explained that not only the UMC, but the broader church in general, is falling into two areas of error. Either they are being judgmental and uncaring toward the people around them or they are approving of things that God said not to approve of.
Despite leaving the UMC, Christ United will still be accountable to other churches, Dunn assured the congregation. The leadership has a desire to be held theologically accountable to others and to ensure they stay in the will of God. Speaking to the Advocate, Dunn indicated his church will invite other churches that decide to leave the UMC to form a fellowship of like-minded congregations that can pray for each other and hold one another accountable.
When asked whether he was concerned about the church losing its building, Dunn said: “not at all.” The leadership of the church acknowledges it is entirely plausible that the UMC will ask for Christ United’s building back because of the parameters of the trust clause churches have to agree to in order to join the denomination. However, Dunn doesn’t believe they will want the building. Even if they did want the building, the leadership is not worried. “God gave us this building free and clear—he can do it again,” Dunn explained. Christ United started with just 12 people in a living room 20 years ago. Its growth from 12 to thousands of members necessitated the church moving into a theater to accommodate its growth.
“You need to be in the word yourself,” Dunn admonished the congregation toward the end of the announcement. He told members it’s easy to find a preacher to say whatever they want to hear, which is why they need to be in the word and know what it says for themselves.
Meanwhile, the UMC is preparing for a meeting in February 2019 where delegates to the denomination will decide on one of a few plans designed to move the congregation forward in consensus.