“To me, that’s a matter of fairness,” he told Religion News Service.
But some churches claim the disaffiliation process approved by the denomination is “onerous, and in many cases, prohibitive.”
The Center for Life and Liberty did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
And churches — like the 31 in Western North Carolina — say a paragraph in the denomination’s Book of Discipline provides another exit strategy for congregations wishing to join another evangelical denomination. The paragraph allows annual conferences to instruct the board of trustees of a church to deed that church’s property to other Methodist or evangelical denominations in certain circumstances. But a lawyer for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference argued that exit strategy cannot be used until the denomination’s top court, called the Judicial Council, approves it.
The United Methodist News Service has documented several additional lawsuits that churches have brought against their annual conferences over disaffiliation. They include three congregations in Missouri and one in Wisconsin.
The largest United Methodist church in the Atlanta metropolitan region also remains locked in lawsuits with its annual conference, the North Georgia Annual Conference. Mount Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, Georgia, announced its plans to disaffiliate last year, pointing to conflict with its bishop over the reassignment of its pastor and “the direction of the United Methodist denomination.”
Meantime, the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a network of theologically conservative Methodist churches, has asked United Methodist churches to withhold apportionments from 19 annual conferences it believes are making disaffiliation difficult to impossible, including Florida.
This article originally appeared here.