A large Methodist church outside of Dallas, Texas that left the United Methodist Church (UMC) last year, has decided to start its own denomination.
White’s Chapel Methodist Church overwhelmingly voted last November to disaffiliate itself from the UMC over theological disagreements about same-sex marriage.
The 17,500-member church now belongs to a new denomination it is calling the Methodist Collegiate Church (MCC).
So far, they are the only members of the network but according to its website, the new denomination will be a middle ground among Methodists.
“Knowing that accountability and connectionalism are critical to the Methodist expression of Christianity, White’s Chapel set out to find other congregations to join together in a new centerist Methodist denomination that welcomes all people, makes space for a variety of points of view, and strives to set aside differences in order to faithfully follow where the Holy Spirit leads,” it reads.
Rev. Dr. Larry Duggins, the chancellor over Methodist Collegiate Church, told CBN News in a statement that one of their central concerns was maintaining a “focus on service” while remaining “faithful to scripture.”
“In short, we wanted an environment that could support multiple points of view while staying focused on the Great Commission and the Greatest Commandment,” he said. “The Human Sexuality issue was an important one for many of our congregants, but being part of a denomination with its eyes on the future and its heart centered in scripture was also very important to us.”
Fifty churches from six different states have reached out to White’s Chapel to be a part of the Methodist Collegiate Church, but the church must wait on approval of its disaffiliation to accept the requests.
The Texas Annual Conference will vote on pending disaffiliations during its meeting, which is scheduled June 4-6, Religion News Service reports.
Duggins explained that churches under the MCC will be financially independent and will ultimately share the cost of maintaining the denomination.
“Our infrastructure will remain small, and will be focused on maintaining our statement of common beliefs, our educational resources and our development of clergy and lay leadership,” he said.
As CBN News reported, the UMC has experienced a mass exodus of affiliated churches over the denomination’s LGBTQ inclusion, including the ordination of openly gay pastors.
Each of the church’s five U.S. jurisdictions met separately last November to approve measures where “LGBTQIA+” people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered.”
Also, the church’s second openly gay bishop was elected.
Conservatives predicted the developments would only accelerate their exit from one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations.
Before their departure, White’s Chapel leadership released a document giving the reasons why the church was “exploring a realignment.”
“Currently, due to the ongoing division taking place in the greater UMC, congregations across America are being asked to choose their own pathways for future affiliation based on their core values and theological beliefs.” the church’s leadership wrote. “Today, we are experiencing the UMC as a broken institution. As well, the alternatives we have been given don’t seem to align with our context or our theology.”
Nearly 3,000 churches have disaffiliated from the UMC, according to United Methodist News Service.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that White’s Chapel membership is 17,500.