SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — It’s a decision that is weighing heavily on the minds of Methodist church leaders across Georgia.
At the South Georgia United Methodist Conference – 193 methodist churches voted to disaffiliate with the church.
For some, leaving believing the church doesn’t go far enough to ban same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy.
“Have really been more conservative churches that are choosing to leave because they don’t, they think the church is becoming more progressive or because they think the church is becoming less orthodox,” said Ben Martin, Senior Pastor at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church.
But there’s another branch of churches following behind Asbury Memorial Church. That church disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church in 2019 and was one of the first churches to do so several years ago because they are more supportive of the LGBTQ community.
In 2020, Billy Hester, Senior Pastor of Asbury Memorial Church said, “The two main things Jesus taught was love God and love neighbor. He said the rest ya know is not as important as those two things. So I think we try to work hard at doing that here, and you know if people have a problem with that I don’t know what to say.”
Churches like Asbury cite the church’s stance against same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ members. One of the churches that recently left for that reason is Wesley Oak – which has merged with Asbury.
In a statement to News 3, the church’s pastor says:
“Disaffiliating from the United Methodist denomination has allowed us to work closely with other spiritual leaders in Savannah and beyond and lead the way as a church that welcomes all people, no matter their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, or any other demographic.”
But most churches decided to stay affiliated with the church. Pastor Ben Martin Preaches At Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church downtown.
Martin says for his church – it wasn’t a tough decision.
“It hasn’t been that difficult a decision for us mainly because it seemed like we could only do harm by taking vote,” Martin said.