The United Methodist Church, known for its rich history and global reach, is in the midst of a defining chapter in its existence with recent debates and divisions around matters of human sexuality impacting many of its congregations worldwide. With approximately 6,000 U.S. churches leaving the denomination since 2019, what does that mean for Methodists in Nassau County? I talked with Pastor Mark “Charlie” Charles from Memorial United Methodist Church and asked how they are navigating these issues.
In 2019, at a special session of the UMC General Conference, delegates voted to add Paragraph 2553 to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which created a process by which churches could leave the denomination. Since then, a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church has formed, providing departing United Methodist Churches with a new denominational home to land in.
This current debate within Methodism is not a new one. Conversations on human sexuality have been a recurring theme since the merging of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church formed the United Methodist Church in 1968. However, the debate has intensified in the last decade and came to a head at the General Conference Special Session in 2019.
Memorial United Methodist Church, one of the largest Methodist churches in the area, has chosen a steadfast stance during these tumultuous times. The Church Council has decided they will not call for a vote concerning disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church under paragraph 2553 of the Discipline.
These wider denominational issues have raised questions and concerns throughout the congregation in recent years, with some members choosing to seek fellowship in other local churches due to the anticipated outcomes they have regarding United Methodism. But despite these ongoing denominational issues, the church leadership has refused to allow Memorial to become a single-issue church when it comes to this matter. As it stands, Memorial United Methodist Church is moving forward even with the broader denominational uncertainty that swirls around them.
When asked about the future of United Methodism, Pastor Charlie said, “The prevailing sentiment is one of hope as congregations across the Florida Conference continue to live into our vision of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. For us at Memorial, the biggest and most important thing is keeping our minds and hearts focused on Jesus Christ and the mission to which we have been called as a church family.”