Miss-Lou congregations vote to leave United Methodist Church

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Some large and small congregations of the Miss-Lou have taken an official vote to leave the United Methodist Church, joining a nationwide movement over issues regarding same-sex marriages and the ordinations of openly homosexual clergy.

Lovely Lane, Washington and Kingston all remain with UMC, some with hopes of making an informed decision after the June 2024 general conference, according to church leaders.

Jefferson Street and Grace churches in Natchez will no longer be affiliated with UMC after official votes were taken earlier this year. However, the votes were not unanimous.

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The Rev. Will Wilkerson, the current pastor of Jefferson Street, said that in early February, approximately 84 percent of the congregation voted to disaffiliate from UMC while the others wanted to remain a UMC church.

The Rev. Vicki Landrum, the pastor of Grace UMC, said, “I’d rather not get into the numbers,” adding she felt that it’s an “inside the church” issue and not the general public.

“We did have more than the two-thirds vote necessary for it to pass,” she said.
“They are going through the process of getting our paperwork in order and deciding what the next step will be with the church. They are also deciding what denomination they might affiliate with. All of that is in process. They won’t cease to be a UMC church until after the June 1 conference.”

In the meantime, Landrum said she remains the pastor of Grace and Kingston UMC churches.

“Kingston is choosing to wait until after the general conference in 2024 to make their next decision,” she said. “The decision right now is to remain with UMC for this year.”

Pastors of churches that disaffiliate from UMC and who chose to remain with UMC will be assigned to new churches.

Those churches will now face the decision of what denomination they want to affiliate with.

“There’s a lot of discernment to be done,” Wilkerson said, “(as well as) prayer and visioning of the way ahead.”

Throughout Concordia Parish, congregations unanimously agreed to disaffiliate from UMC.

The Rev. Steven McDonald, the pastor of Vidalia, Sevier Memorial and Jonesville United Methodist churches, said that on June 1, the churches will be called Ferriday, Vidalia and Jonesville Methodist churches.

McDonald said he wants to continue serving the local churches if the congregations agree. The Vidalia church is currently in the midst of a building project after the church building was destroyed by fire in July 2021 and McDonald said he wants to see it through.

The church is two months out from finalizing plans for the new building, which will then go out for bid, he said.

The issue that is causing churches to split from the denomination has been ongoing since 1972 when the wording on homosexuality first appeared in the UMC Book of Discipline.

However, two major decisions were made during the 2019 general conference that spurred the disaffiliation movement. The vote affirming UMC’s stance that homosexuals cannot be ordained showed diversity within the denomination on the topic with 53 percent yes votes and 47 percent no votes.

Therefore, Paragraph 2553, a disaffiliation clause that allows churches to leave the UMC and retain their property, was added to the Book of Discipline.

The clause allows disaffiliating churches to keep property currently held in trust, but anything that has the UMC emblem — a cross and a flame — has to be returned to the UMC conference.