At issue was a “pause” from the North Georgia Conference that temporarily halted requests to leave, citing “factually incorrect and defamatory” information circulating about the process for disaffiliation.
“I’m very pleased by the judge’s ruling,” said Gary Floyd, a member of The Fountain Church in Suwanee. “I personally want to give the membership the opportunity to vote.”
The hearing was well-attended with some estimates exceeding 200 people. Congregants of UMC churches filled the courtroom as well as two overflow rooms.
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. Some said they feared the denomination was moving away from biblical principals and was becoming more progressive.
Indeed, for many attending, what started as division over issue of the ordination of practicing gay clergy and same sex marriage has turned into something more.
Michael Raper, who attends a UMC church in Woodstock, said reasons for wanting to disaffiliate have “morphed into a general lack of confidence in conference leaders.” Raper made it clear he was not speaking on behalf of the church.
Bishop Dease, who was in court for all of the daylong hearing, said it was undecided whether the conference would appeal.
She said the ruling, “was unfortunate, but we are focused on mission and ministry and so we’re going to be headed into annual conference in a celebratory mode.” The annual conference will be June 1-3 in Athens.