North Georgia Conference of UMC calls for special session

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Roughly 185 churches are asking to leave the denomination this year

Bishop Robin Dease has announced she will call a special session of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to hold a vote on whether to allow nearly 200 churches to leave the conference.

In a video message posted on the conference’s website Tuesday, Dease said the special session will be held Nov. 18. Further details on time and location will be announced later.

The decision to hold a vote on allowing the churches to disaffiliate with the conference is a breakthrough. The 185 churches in the North Georgia Conference who are asking to leave have been waiting since December to learn whether a vote would be taken. The churches are leaving over disagreements with the Methodist church about issues including same-sex marriage and ordaining LGBTQ clergy.

Earlier this year, the churches sued the North Georgia Conference, former Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Dease, trustees and others over the conference’s decision to halt or “pause” the disaffiliation process. A court also ruled in favor of two churches in Augusta that want to leave the denomination.

In pausing the disaffiliation process, the conference cited “factually incorrect and defamatory” information circulating about the process for disaffiliation that was “outside the bounds of normal and acceptable civil discourse.”

Last week, a Cobb County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the churches after a day-long hearing that drew so many people the court had to open two additional rooms to handle the overflow. The judge’s ruling required the conference to put the disaffiliation process back on track.

“The goal of the district superintendents is to move through this process with a gracious spirit,” Dease said in the video.

The North Georgia Conference will hold its annual meeting June 1- 3 in Athens. The conference, which covers the area north of Macon, is the largest in the nation with about 700 member churches.

The denomination has been divided over several issues, largely over the ordination of openly gay clergy and same sex marriage. But those are not the only issues, church members say. Some said they feared the denomination was moving away from biblical principles and was becoming too progressive.

Churches that have left or plan to leave say they will join other Methodist denominations, become independent or join the more conservative Global Methodist Church.

The next session of the United Methodist General Conference, which will bring people from around the world, will be held April 23 to May 3, 2024, in Charlotte, N.C.