The United Methodist Churches is the second largest denomination of protestant faith in the United States. During this year’s annual conference, the North West Texas seccion of this denomination voted to split. The Northwest Texas Conference includes 200 churches.
This slit was pushed by the most conservative wing of the Methodist church and is the result of years of differences and fights over inclusion and issues like abortion and gay marriage. According to the Texas Tribune, after the final approval of gay marriage from the leaders of the united Methodist Church, hundreds of churches are willing to slit from this denomination. The Tribune points out that, in Texas, 145 churches have already split and some of these churches say they will join a more conservative denomination such as Evangelism. The Northwest Texas Annual Conference greenlighted the exits of nearly 75% of the region’s congregations.
“It parallels this moment in the broader world,” said the Rev. Nathan Lonsdale Bledsoe, senior pastor at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Houston, which is remaining in the United Methodist Church. “It’s a hard time to bring people together. We really reflect the brokenness of the culture and the world.”
Ryan Burge, an Eastern Illinois University professor of religion and political science, said in an interview with the Texas Tribune that this split could accelerate religious and political polarization. As new churches reject traditionally “moderate” denominations such as the Methodist to join more conservative ones as they get closer and closer to the Republican party. “We are losing the middle tranche. They have always been the counterpoint to evangelicals,” Burge said.