LUBBOCK, Texas – Changes in church; are a big topic of conversation for West Texas Methodists and the United Methodist Church altogether.
This comes after years of conflict within the denomination over theological and cultural differences on same-sex marriage as well as the ordination of the LGBTQ community.
The churches and pastors have faced the difficult decision to either remain in the United Methodist Church, join the newly formed Global Methodist Church, go independent, or join a completely other denomination.
As of Saturday, 145 of 201 Methodist churches in the Northwest Texas Conference have voted to disaffiliate from the denomination. This includes eight Lubbock churches. EverythingLubbock spoke to one church that decided to change its affiliation, and one that decided to stay put.
Oakwood Methodist Church, who will now be called Oakwood Wesleyan Fellowship, voted 98% to leave the denomination. But that wasn’t the case for St. John’s United Methodist Church .
Tom Fuller, the Senior Pastor at Oakwood explained, “Everybody’s welcome in the church, up to the point where they demand the church’s blessing on a practice that has traditionally from the beginning, been considered unacceptable by the scriptures.”
His congregation, one of 145 within the NWTX conference to make the switch to the Global Methodist Church.
“That is the new conservative denomination that’s been born in just the last year or two,” he added. “The Global Methodist is a very good church and its faithful, and it’s got everything in order, and we just have to join it.”
However, one of the only 50 who decided to stay is St. John’s Methodist. Rev. Ann Akin, the Associate Pastor said, “John Wesley at one point said the world is my parish, meaning that wherever he was, he brought with him his identity of being a pastor. She added that Wesley felt that the more people asked questions and wondered, the better.
Other leadership at St. John’s said now is the time for Christians to come together and not split up.
Rev. Madoc Thomas, a retired NWTX Clergy added, “I’ve come to believe very strongly that it is offensive to God to deny ordination to people who happen to be gay or lesbian.”
However, Fuller explained, “I just want folks to know, if you’ve heard it’s a matter of hate or prejudice. It’s really not. It’s a matter of scriptural authority.”
In an article by the Texas Tribune, hundreds more are expected to similarly depart in the coming months. For those that have already made the decision, the transfer will officially take effect January 1st.