11 Lowcountry churches set to leave United Methodist Church

Eleven Lowcountry churches are set to leave the denomination at the end of June after their separation from the United Methodist Church.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 4:29 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 8:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Eleven Lowcountry churches are set to leave the denomination at the end of June after their separation from the United Methodist Church was approved over disputes about LGBTQ+ issues.

The Lowcountry locations are among a total of 113 across South Carolina whose members voted to separate from UMC’s 2023 South Carolina Annual Conference, which “overwhelmingly approved the closure” of the churches, according to a news release from the conference.

Thousands of United Methodist congregations have been voting on whether to stay or quit one of the nation’s largest denominations amid intractable debates over theology and the role of LGBTQ+ people. There are stark differences over recognizing same-sex marriage and ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy.

The release states the churches determined “they can no longer function as a United Methodist church because they firmly believe that the denomination has not consistently upheld its stated doctrine on issues of human sexuality.”

“The UMC Book of Discipline prohibits performing same-gender weddings and the ordination of ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” the release states.

The United Methodist Church — with about 6.5 million members in the United States and at least that many abroad — has long debated its bans on same-sex marriages and the ordination of openly LGBTQ+ clergy.

The denomination has repeatedly upheld the bans, largely through the voting strength of the growing, more conservative churches abroad. But conservatives chose to form a new denomination amid growing defiance of the bans in U.S. churches.

More than 3,500 U.S. congregations have received their local conferences’ permission to disaffiliate from the UMC, the United Methodist News Service told the Associated Press. With conference season underway, disaffiliations are closing in on 4,000 and could rise even more by the end of the year, said the Rev. Jay Therrell, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, a conservative group advocating for departing congregations.

That’s a fraction of the United Methodists’ 30,000 U.S. churches, though several of the departing congregations are among the largest in their states.

The Lowcountry churches set to close include five in the Charleston District and six in the Walterboro District:

Charleston District

  • Aldersgate UMC (North Charleston)
  • Charleston Korean UMC (North Charleston)
  • Friendship UMC (Cross)
  • Pinopolis UMC (Pinopolis)
  • Point Hope UMC (Mt. Pleasant)

Walterboro District

  • Tillman UMC (Tillman)
  • Cottageville UMC (Cottageville)
  • Cypress UMC (Ridgeville)
  • Mt. Tabor UMC (Ridgeville)
  • Trinity UMC (Ridgeville)
  • St. Paul UMC (Ridgeland)

Volunteers with Holy City Missions have operated a warming shelter out of Aldersgate United Methodist Church off Remount Road. The shelter has offered a warm place to sleep during cold nights for people who are without a home or who do not have adequate heating.

A chairperson of Holy City Mission says Aldersgate will continue to be a methodist church. The food bank and the warming shelter will also continue to serve the community.

“We pray for these churches that have chosen a different journey. May we also acknowledge that that which binds us will never leave us. In the midst of our separation, may we show each other the grace and love that you demonstrated through your sacrifice on the cross and your resurrection from the grave,” Bishop L. Jonathan Holston said after the vote. “For those who are leaving us, we bless you and send you on your way. For those who are remaining, we pray that God gives us a new will to do what God has called us to do. May it become clear, may it become important, may it move from our heads to our hearts.”

Each church met the following requirements to be closed under Paragraph 2549 of the Book of Discipline:

  • The church council of a local church determined that it is in the best interest of the church to allow the congregation to pursue separation.
  • The local church completed an intentional, 30-day process of discernment to consider whether the congregation can continue to function as a United Methodist church.
  • Certain financial obligations, including: A tithe equal to 10 percent of the appraised value of all church property and liquid assets. All unpaid apportionment giving for the prior year, as well as for the year of closure up to the date of the Annual Conference vote to close the church. An additional 12 months of apportionment giving. All unpaid salary and benefits due to clergy appointed to the church. A withdrawal liability equal to the church’s proportional share of any unfunded pension obligations.
  • Other financial considerations and legal liabilities of the local church – such as the disposition of any debts, loans, leases, endowments, foundations and cemeteries – must be satisfied or transferred to a new entity.
  • At a church conference meeting, two-thirds of professing church members present and voting support declaring formally that the church can no longer continue to function as a United Methodist church.

In addition to the Lowcountry location, the following churches across South Carolina are also set to close:

Anderson District

  • St. Andrew UMC (Easley)
  • Chiquola UMC (Honea Path)
  • Bells UMC (Abbeville)
  • Salem UMC (Salem)

Columbia District

  • Columbia Korean UMC (Columbia)
  • Rehoboth UMC (Batesburg-Leesville)
  • Chapin UMC (Chapin)
  • Lebanon UMC (Eastover)
  • Mt. Horeb UMC (Lexington)
  • Pond Branch UMC (Gilbert)

Florence District

  • Cades UMC (Cades)
  • Cameron UMC (Lake City)
  • First UMC (Hemingway)
  • St. Paul UMC (Coward)
  • Ebenezer UMC (Hemingway)
  • Old Johnsonville UMC (Johnsonville)
  • Mt. Vernon UMC (Greeleyville)
  • Prospect UMC (Pamplico)
  • Lane UMC (Lane)
  • Liberty Chapel UMC (Florence)
  • New Zion UMC (New Zion)
  • Pine Grove UMC (Timmonsville)
  • Pisgah UMC (Florence)
  • Cedar Swamp UMC (Kingstree)
  • Millwood UMC (Kingstree)
  • Tabernacle UMC (Pamplico)
  • Shiloh UMC-Turbeville (Lynchburg)
  • Trinity UMC-New Zion (Alcolu)
  • Trio UMC (Salters)
  • Pine Grove UMC (Turbeville)
  • Salem UMC (Timmonsville)
  • Earle UMC (Andrews)
  • Suttons UMC (Andrews)
  • Good Hope UMC (Hemingway)
  • St Luke UMC-Kingstree (Salters)

Greenville District

  • Dials UMC (Gray Court)
  • Shiloh UMC (Gray Court)
  • Buncombe Street UMC (Greenville)
  • Covenant UMC (Greer)
  • Sharon UMC (Greer)
  • Zoar UMC (Greer)
  • Mauldin UMC (Mauldin)
  • Mountain View UMC (Taylors)

Greenwood District

  • Hodges UMC (Hodges)
  • Shiloh UMC (Saluda)
  • Butler UMC (Saluda)
  • McCormick UMC (McCormick)

Hartsville District

  • Concord UMC (Bishopville)
  • Dalzell UMC (Dalzell)
  • Lewis Chapel UMC (Sumter)
  • Bethel-Oswego UMC (Sumter)
  • McLeod Chapel UMC (Rembert)
  • St. John UMC (Rembert)
  • St. John UMC (Sumter)
  • St. Mark’s UMC-Broad Street (Sumter)
  • St. Matthew UMC (Bishopville)
  • Beulah UMC (Camden)

Marion District

  • Trinity UMC (Andrews)
  • Wayne UMC (Georgetown)
  • Bethel UMC-Georgetown (Andrews)
  • Aynor UMC (Aynor)
  • Rehoboth UMC-Aynor (Galivants Ferry)
  • First UMC (Bennettsville)
  • Zoan UMC (Loris)
  • Antioch UMC (Bennettsville)
  • Christ UMC (Bennettsville)
  • Pisgah UMC (Aynor)
  • Boykin UMC (Bennettsville)
  • Trinity UMC (Clio)
  • Pine Grove UMC (McColl)
  • Smyrna UMC (Bennettsville)
  • Berea UMC (McColl)
  • Main Street (Dillon)
  • First UMC (Loris)
  • Main Street UMC (McColl)
  • Brown Swamp UMC (Conway)
  • Oak Grove UMC (Wallace)
  • Pleasant Hill UMC (Marion/Wallace)
  • Center UMC (Mullins)
  • Tranquil UMC (Mullins)

Orangeburg District

  • Limestone UMC (Orangeburg)
  • Ebenezer UMC-Orange Circuit (North)
  • Cattle Creek UMC (Rowesville)

Rock Hill District

  • Grace Community UMC (Fort Mill)
  • Capers Chapel UMC (Chester)
  • Catawba UMC (Catawba)
  • New Hope UMC (Chester)
  • Armenia UMC (Chester)
  • Mt. Vernon UMC (Hickory Grove)
  • Bethel UMC (Lancaster)

Spartanburg District

  • Wesley Chapel UMC (Union)
  • Liberty UMC-Campobello (Landrum)
  • Buffalo UMC (Buffalo)
  • Campobello UMC (Campobello)
  • Carlisle UMC (Carlisle)
  • Bethlehem UMC-Jonesville (Union)
  • Sardis UMC (Union)
  • Fosters Chapel UMC (Jonesville)
  • Lyman UMC (Lyman)
  • Roebuck UMC (Roebuck)
  • Reidville Road UMC (Moore)
  • Walnut Grove UMC (Roebuck)