Editor’s Note: The church could vote to either remain with the UMC, become independent or join the Global Methodist Church denomination.

After months of what church officials have described as “discernment,” the Lake Highlands United Methodist congregation will vote on whether to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church on Sunday, Jan. 29.

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The discernment process, when a church congregation considers disaffiliating, typically takes 9-12 months. LHUMC began the process with conference leadership in July, and it took six months to reach the voting process.

Traditionally, the UMC follows the Book of Discipline and believes in practicing faith in a community. In previous years, the topic of homosexuality and same-sex marriage has been a point of contention due to the inclusive stance the church adopted. 

During the 2019 General Conference, paragraph 2553 was added to the Book of Discipline to allow for disaffiliation of individual churches facing division, but allow them to keep their property. 

The Global Methodist Church denomination, on the other hand, is more conservative in its interpretation of homosexuality. 

The GMC is a newer church denomination and was just established in May 2022 because many churches wanted to leave the UMC. Of the more than 30,500 UMC congregations nationwide, more than 1,314 have disaffiliated, according to UM News.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The process was first announced through a July 31 Task Force Report. The Task Force was created to identify possible options if the church were to disaffiliate from the UMC to the GMC or become independent.

LHUMC isn’t the only church that’s been contemplating leaving. Already, other churches within several Texas Conferences have discussed disaffiliation or have already switched to the GMC denomination.

The discernment process, as it’s referenced, is the result of division within the denomination regarding disagreements upon homosexuality among clergymen and different interpretations of the Book of Discipline. 

The following is stated on the GMC website:

“For approximately 12 to 18 months, the Global Methodist Church will be a church in transition as it prepares for its convening General Conference. During the transitional period, the Global Methodist Church will operate under the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline” 

When asked for comment about the impending vote, LHUMC Church Council Chair Terry King said neither she nor the board want to talk with the media about the discernment process since the church is still studying options and they want to keep the matter within the church body.

Some members say they have already made up their minds on their voting decision before the church-wide vote, while others are undecided or guarded about their decision and fear upsetting fellow members.

Either way, some members have expressed their comfort in knowing everyone has a say in the matter and that the church isn’t making a decision without their input.

“I think that our church has done it the right way and that they are canvassing everybody in the church so we have input. We’re all praying about this to make sure we’ve done the right thing. I’m not at a point where I want to broadcast what I think about this,” said a longtime member who asked to be kept anonymous.

The Advocate will follow up and report on the results of the vote.