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Local church considers disaffiliation from United Methodist over gay marriage, ordination

<i></i><br/>Long's Chapel in Haywood County
Lawrence, Nakia

Long's Chapel in Haywood County

By Rex Hodge

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    HAYWOOD COUNTY, North Carolina (WLOS) — Some United Methodist churches are considering splitting from the formal church over issues regarding gay marriage and gay ordination — and locally, that decision is before Long’s Chapel in Haywood County right now.

Long’s Chapel leadership spoke with News 13 Wednesday, April 12, saying at the moment, they’re in a period of discernment over the issue of disaffiliation.

What’s driving the possibility of disaffiliation from the formal United Methodist Church is the issue of same-sex marriage. Since May 2022, members of Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church have been discussing whether to split from the UMC hierarchy, after the broader church offered the option to all its member churches across the nation. It’s something they have until the end of the year to decide.

Long’s Chapel Pastor Chris Westmoreland said the church’s position on homosexuality in the Book of Discipline is clear.

“The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” Westmoreland explained. “The current position of the UMC is more of a traditional mindset.”

But individual churches have an option to leave the denomination for reasons of conscience.

Long’s Chapel is unofficially taking a vote of its congregation for guidance on disaffiliating.

“That vote is actually ongoing this week,” said Chuck Lipp, chairman of Long’s Chapel’s Leadership Team.

He said local church members have been huddling for months.

“I feel huddle meetings were very important because it allowed the church members to express their views both in favor and opposed to disaffiliation,” Lipp said.

Westmoreland said this is a difficult time for the church.

“The larger question that is happening within the denomination is, ‘Do you need to change the official position around marriage and family life to be available, accountable, welcoming and open?’ That is really one of the current questions that is schism-ing the denomination.”

This week’s vote isn’t the final say. A more formal vote is set for this fall when the results could be affirmed by the hierarchy after a specially-called conference in November.

Bishop Ken Carter, resident Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, made a statement on the issue at hand:

“We know there are strong differences of opinion within Long’s Chapel United Methodist Church. The doctrines of the United Methodist Church have not changed, even as we are on a journey to welcoming all of God’s people. We have met with and listened to leaders across a spectrum in Long’s Chapel, and we regret that this became a focus for the congregation during Holy Week and Easter.”

Should the disaffiliation happen, the question arises, where would Long’s Chapel fall within the framework of the church?

“We would not be United Methodist, but we believe very strongly we would still be a Methodist church,” Westmoreland said.

“Everybody has worth, and we believe that God loves everybody, and we want to be a ministry with everybody,” said Westmoreland.

Whatever the outcome, the leadership of Long’s Chapel says it’s working in a spirit of cooperation with the formal church.

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