Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
ANNOUNCEMENT: Starting on December 1st, the DailyTrib.com subscription rates will change. The new renewal rate will be $20 for the yearly membership and $4 for the monthly membership. If you currently have a membership, you will be charged the new rate upon renewal.
First United Methodist Church, 1101 Bluebonnet Drive in Marble Falls, is leaving the United Methodist Church over the status of LGBTQ in church leadership. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell
First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls is leaving the national conference over the status of LGBTQ people in church leadership. The congregation of the 133-year-old Marble Falls church voted by an 87 percent majority to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the nation. United Methodists number 6.4 million in the United States and 13 million worldwide.
“While it grieves us to separate from our spiritual brothers and sisters, we determined that in order to continue that same ministry to this congregation and our community, we had to part ways with a denomination that is changing,” said Mike Fletcher, the local church’s lay leader, in a media statement.
The debate over gays in leadership roles intensified last year after all five of the denomination’s conferences approved petitions defining the United Methodist Church as a place “where LGBTQIA+ people will be protected, affirmed, and empowered in the life and ministry of the church.”
In 2019, the church’s ruling body gave individual churches until Dec. 31, 2023, to decide whether to stay or go as it began to open the denomination to the LGBTQ community. So far, of the 30,500 United Methodist churches across the country, 1,300 have been granted disaffiliation. As the deadline draws near, more are expected to leave.
“For the past six months, our congregation has been engaged in an intense period of prayerful discernment and reflection that resulted in our vote, so we did not come to this decision lightly,” Fletcher said.
When asked about the issue of gay rights in the church, Fletcher told DailyTrib.com that “it’s not really about that.”
“We welcome anybody and everybody into the church,” he said. “We have a book of discipline that indicates that gays cannot be bishops or pastors. Our conference and many others in the Methodist denomination are violating the book of discipline by ordaining pastors and bishops. It’s more to keep our bylaws in check than it is about human sexuality.”
Many of the Methodist churches leaving UMC are joining a newly formed conference, the Global Methodist Church, which has declared it would never ordain or marry LGBTQ people.
“That’s another decision we are working on as a committee and council,” Fletcher said. “That has not been decided.”
Eventually, the Marble Falls church will choose a new name and decide whether the word “Methodist” will be part of it. The congregation also could decide to become an independent church.
The congregation has lost members over the decision.
“We don’t know what the turnout is going to be, but it’s pretty obvious we’ll lose some,” Fletcher said.
Church staff have remained solidly behind the congregational vote, he continued.
“We are good right now with staff,” he said.
The disaffiliation process takes months. The request will be submitted to the Rio Texas conference and voted on later in the year. In allowing churches to disaffiliate, the UMC said it would also let those congregations take over their properties after paying apportionments and pension liabilities.
“At First United Methodist Church-Marble Falls, we have always been a collection of imperfect people who welcome any and all other imperfect people to join our family as we support one another in seeking how to best love God and abide by his teachings,” Fletcher said in the media statement. “With this action, we are excited to be able to continue walking together with folks to a table that is laden with life-changing truth.”