Mt. Bethel church and regional UMC conference enter into mediation

Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Jody G. Ray delivers a Sunday sermon in this file photo. Mt. Bethel and the North Georgia Conference have entered into mediation. (Mt. Bethel UMC)

Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Jody G. Ray delivers a Sunday sermon in this file photo. Mt. Bethel and the North Georgia Conference have entered into mediation. (Mt. Bethel UMC)

Efforts are underway to resolve tensions and a threatened split between the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church and one of its largest congregations.

The conference’s board of trustees and Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church in east Cobb issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying the two parties had entered into mediation.

“Mt. Bethel UMC and the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church have jointly agreed to use their best efforts to resolve an ongoing dispute through a mediation process and will refrain from public comment on this matter until the mediation process has concluded. Mt. Bethel Christian Academy will also be included in the mediation process,” read the statement posted on the conference’s website.

The North Georgia Conference is the regional governing body for the area’s United Methodist churches. Mt. Bethel, whose membership has been reported to be around 8,000 people, is one of nearly 800 churches in the conference.

In April, the Rev. Jody Ray, who has served as senior pastor of the east Cobb congregation for about five years, surrendered his credentials and said the church was taking steps to leave the denomination.

At issue was the planned reassignment of Ray, who was to be appointed to a new assignment on the conference staff related to racial reconciliation.

Ray contends he was never consulted about the move. In a previous interview, he said the reassignment could be due to the church not paying its full apportionments to the annual conference for several years. He also thinks the congregation’s support of the Book of Discipline’s conservative stance on the issue of homosexuality may have been a factor.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached out to Mt. Bethel and the conference, but comments were unavailable Wednesday.

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