The controversy dividing the United Methodist Church continues as a large congregation in Tulsa changed its name.
Asbury United Methodist Church is now officially called Asbury Church, the megachurch said in a statement on its website, adding it has begun the process of disaffiliating from the denomination.
“We do not know where or when we will affiliate with a new denomination,” the church said, according to “The Christian Post.” “Currently, our main focus is protecting the assets and interests of Asbury and fully disaffiliating from the UMC.”
Asbury Church’s announcement comes weeks after the UMC delayed its General Conference meeting for a third time earlier this month, citing the COVID-19 pandemic Postponed to 2024, the General Conference is expected to be contentious as delegates negotiate a denominational split over theological differences, including the full inclusion of LGBT members in the denomination and the ordination of ministers in same-sex relationships.
The Rev. Tom Harrison, Asbury Church’s senior pastor, said the split had been inevitable for some time.
“There isn’t one issue driving this separation; rather, after years of operating under vastly different approaches to theology, ministry and Christology, it was determined by the leadership of the church, in conjunction with the pastoral staff, that these approaches are irreconcilable and no longer sustainable,” he said. “As Asbury Church, we will continue to pursue our mission of helping others follow Jesus.”
READ: Reformed Church in America is latest denomination to divide over sexuality issues
The UMC has been engaged in a long battle over the church’s teachings on sexuality, prompting more conservative churches to leave the denomination. The UMC’s official stance, as outlined in the Book of Discipline, labels homosexuality a sin, bars the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals and prohibits the blessing of same-sex marriages. However, progressive United Methodists have, on several occasions, defied the rules by ordaining openly gay clergy or officiating same-sex marriages.
The Asbury megachurch said it might consider joining the Global Methodist Church, a more conservative Methodist denomination, which has announced it will officially launch in May.
“This future denomination will be made up of former United Methodists from North America, Africa, Europe and elsewhere who uphold the authority of Scripture,” Asbury said. in its statement. “The formation of this new denomination has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice