Church vote ratification could leave some spiritually homeless

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 8:57 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A vote that took place in July is looking to be ratified, meaning possible big changes for a Jonesboro church.

Back in July, the First United Methodist Church voted to disaffiliate following months of debate.

At the root of disaffiliation was a congregational disagreement about sexuality.

“It is both not being allowed to perform same-gender weddings, not being able to have same-sex weddings on United Methodist property, or not ordaining self-evaluated homosexuals.”, said Todd Burris, the director of administrative services for the Arkansas Conference.

As for the historic downtown church building, it will stay with the majority.

Most church properties are held in trust by the denomination.

Following changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline in 2019, churches will be able to retain their property if they choose to “disaffiliate.”

After Dec. 2023, the offer ends, making it impossible for churches to keep their properties.

“If the disaffiliation is allowed to move forward, then the group that is currently there in that building that is wanting to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church gets the property and the assets.”, said Dr. Holly Hall, who has attended the church for years and is part of the Stay UMC group.

For Hall and other members that call the church home, this vote means everything to them.

Stay UMC is packing their bags and traveling to Hot Springs on Saturday. Nov. 19 to make sure their side of the story is heard.

However, regardless of the way it turns out, it won’t make a difference for Dr. Hall.

As the final vote showed sharp division within the congregation with a 944 to 412 vote, she explained she cannot go back to a church with such division.

“Hope there are folks inside that building that voted to stay with the building, and we will join with them and start a new, strong, and vibrant Methodist church,” Hall said.

Burns understands local churches are the ones hit hardest, losing members that grew up going to the church and causing much division. He said there are over 30 churches that are up for ratification on Saturday.

“On opposite sides, and there is going to be a lot of heartaches, and a lot of hurt feelings,” he said.

Hall feels the vote was rushed, and many aspects were overlooked, adding they were denied access to church resources and had ballot issues and a rostering debacle.

“We do not know who is a member of the church, we do not how many people were added last minute,” she said.

Region 8 News had an interview set up with Pastor John Miles, but at the advice of the leadership team and his lawyer, canceled less than 24 hours before he was supposed to speak with a reporter.