113 churches leave UMCSC

Above photo by Matt Brodie. Bishop L. Jonathan Holston wipes his eyes during an emotional prayer just before the closure vote.


By Jessica Brodie

FLORENCE, S.C.—In a solemn and historical moment of holy conferencing, the South Carolina Annual Conference has approved 113 churches across the state who have chosen to separate from The United Methodist Church over sexuality and other concerns.

The 113 churches comprise almost 12 percent of the 958 total churches in the South Carolina Conference of the UMC and represent every one of the 12 districts in the conference.

The vote occurred June 6 just before 3 p.m. on Day Three of the 52nd session of Annual Conference.

The 113 churches had gone through a conference-authorized Local Church Discernment Process this winter and spring. The process enabled churches to pray, discern and then hold a churchwide vote about leaving the UMC if their members believed the denomination has not upheld its stated doctrine on issues of human sexuality, which is that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” though the church “implores families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.”

The names of the churches intending to separate, as well as the number, had been kept confidential until the vote to “preserve the integrity of the voting process,” according to Dan O’Mara, communications coordinator.

Two hours before the vote, the names of the churches and the resolution itself were provided to voting members of Annual Conference—clergy and lay members elected as delegates from their local congregations—but no one else, including attendees, guests and media.

When the session resumed at 2 p.m. after a lunch break, conference chancellor Kay Crowe spoke from the podium, explaining the terms of the separation agreement. As she shared, to be eligible to have their church vote go before conference this June, churches had to be in full communication with their district superintendent; complete an intentional, 30-day discernment process; satisfy financial obligations, including all unpaid apportionment giving and unpaid salary and benefits due to clergy; and satisfy or transfer of debts and other legal liabilities of the local church. Then, a churchwide vote had to be taken before March 1 that indicated two-thirds of professing church members present agreed to formally declare the church can no longer continue to function as a UMC.

Following Crowe’s presentation to the body, Dean of the Cabinet Dr. Stephen Love affirmed that district superintendents had indeed properly given oversight to the churches in the discernment process and that the names of the churches listed on the resolution were accurate and reflective of the wishes of the congregation.

Next the Rev. Mike Wood, chair of the Conference Board of Trustees, stepped to the podium, stating his board recommended the ratification of the closure and separation of the 113 churches on the list.

The Rev. Carol Rexroad Cannon spoke from the floor, asking that Wood read aloud the names of the churches separating so the conference could honor them properly.

“These 113 churches represent congregations we have served with, that we have loved with and that we have celebrated with for many, many years,” Cannon said. “Therefore, out of respect for them, I would like for us to have each name read before the vote that we may honor each one of these congregations as we bless and release them to the new ministry to which they are called.”

Wood did so, and it was the first fully public revelation of the churches’ names.

Others also spoke from the floor, including the Rev. Kim Strong, retired elder serving as a local church supply pastor, who wished the churches grace and love as they depart.

“And to churches not leaving—and mine is not—God is still in charge,” he said. “God’s grace will cover this situation for all who are involved.”

A tearful Bishop L. Jonathan Holston led the body in an emotional prayer before the vote, asking that God guide all in holy wisdom.

“Regardless of what we do in this time, help us to bless each other,” Holston prayed. “Help us to see your grace and your mercy for what it truly can be. And as we make the decision in this place and space, help us not to do it with a heart of anger. Help us to truly seek to be helpful to one another.”

The vote required a simple majority. Holston called for a standing vote, and the resolution to approve the closures passed overwhelmingly.

“My friends, this report is approved,” Holston said. “These churches are approved to close in separation from The United Methodist Church.”

Silence filled the room for a time. Then Holston offered another prayer: for God’s church, for the annual conference and for the churches who have chosen a different journey.

Several spoke from the floor, thanking Holston for his leadership in the process. The session broke for the afternoon, with a planned return at 5 p.m. for the conference’s memorial service. Business concluded June 7, the final day of conference.

The district closure breakdown is as follows: Anderson District, 4; Charleston, 5; Columbia, 6; Florence, 25; Greenville, 8; Greenwood, 4; Hartsville, 10; Marion, 23; Orangeburg, 3; Rock Hill, 7; Spartanburg, 12; and Walterboro, 6.

The churches that have closed in separation are as follows (organized by district):

  • St. Andrew (Anderson District/Easley)

  • Chiquola (Anderson/Honea Path)

  • Bells (Anderson/Abbeville)

  • Salem (Anderson/Salem)

  • Aldersgate (Charleston District/N Charleston)

  • Charleston Korean (Charleston/N Charleston)

  • Friendship (Charleston/Cross)

  • Pinopolis (Charleston/Pinopolis)

  • Point Hope (Charleston/Mount Pleasant)

  • Columbia Korean (Columbia District/Columbia)

  • Rehoboth/Leesville (Columbia/Batesburg Leesville)

  • Chapin (Columbia/Chapin)

  • Lebanon (Columbia/Eastover)

  • Mount Horeb (Columbia/Lexington)

  • Pond Branch (Columbia/Gilbert)

  • Cades (Florence District/Cades)

  • Cameron (Florence/Lake City)

  • First/Hemingway (Florence/Hemingway)

  • St. Paul/Coward (Florence/Coward)

  • Ebenezer (Florence/Hemingway)

  • Old Johnsonville (Florence/Johnsonville)

  • Mount Vernon (Florence/Greeleyville)

  • Prospect (Florence/Pamplico)

  • Lane (Florence/Lane)

  • Liberty Chapel (Florence/Florence)

  • New Zion (Florence/New Zion)

  • Pine Grove/Timmonsville (Florence/Timmonsville)

  • Pisgah (Florence/Florence)

  • Cedar Swamp (Florence/Kingstree)

  • Millwood (Florence/Kingstree)

  • Tabernacle (Florence/Pamplico)

  • Shiloh/Turbeville {Florence/Lynchburg)

  • Trinity/New Zion (Florence/Alcolu)

  • Trio (Florence/Salters)

  • Pine Grove/Turbeville (Florence/Turbeville)

  • Salem/Timmonsville (Florence/Timmonsville)

  • Earle (Florence/Andrews)

  • Suttons (Florence/Andrews)

  • Good Hope (Florence/Hemingway)

  • St. Luke/Kingstree (Florence/Salters)

  • Dials (Greenville District/Gray Court)

  • Shiloh (Greenville/Gray Court)

  • Buncombe Street (Greenville/Greenville)

  • Covenant (Greenville/Greer)

  • Sharon/Greer (Greenville/Greer)

  • Zoar/Greer (Greenville/Greer)

  • Mauldin (Greenville/Mauldin)

  • Mountain View (Greenville/Taylors)

  • Hodges (Greenwood District/Hodges)

  • Shiloh (Greenwood/Saluda)

  • Butler (Greenwood/Saluda)

  • McCormick (Greenwood/McCormick)

  • Concord (Hartsville District/Bishopville)

  • Dalzell (Hartsville/Dalzell}

  • Lewis Chapel (Hartsville/Sumter)

  • Bethel/Oswego (Hartsville/Sumter)

  • McLeod Chapel (Hartsville/Rembert)

  • St. John/Rembert (Hartsville/Rembert)

  • St. John/Sumter (Hartsville/Sumter)

  • St. Mark’s/Sumter (Broad Street) (Hartsville/Sumter)

  • St. Matthew/Bishopville (Hartsville/Bishopville)

  • Beulah (Hartsville/Camden)

  • Trinity/Andrews (Marion District/Andrews)

  • Wayne (Marion/Georgetown)

  • Bethel/Georgetown (Marion/Andrews)

  • Aynor (Marion/Aynor)

  • Rehoboth/Aynor (Marion/Galivants Ferry)

  • First/Bennettsville (Marion/Bennettsville)

  • Zoan (Marion/Loris)

  • Antioch/Bennettsville (Marion/Bennettsville)

  • Christ/Bennettsville (Marion/Bennettsville)

  • Pisgah (Marion/Aynor)

  • Boykin (Marion/Bennettsville)

  • Trinity/Clio (Marion/Clio)

  • Pine Grove (Marion/McColl)

  • Smyrna/Bennettsville (Marion/Bennettsville)

  • Berea (Marion/McColl)

  • Main Street/Dillon (Marion/Dillon)

  • First/Loris (Marion/Loris)

  • Main Street/McColl (Marion/McColl)

  • Brown Swamp (Marion/Conway)

  • Oak Grove/Wallace (Marion/Wallace)

  • Pleasant Hill/Wallace (Marion/Wallace)

  • Center (Marion/Mullins)

  • Tranquil (Marion/Mullins)

  • Limestone (Orangeburg District/Orangeburg)

  • Ebenezer/Orange Cir (Orangeburg/North)

  • Cattle Creek (Orangeburg/Rowesville)

  • Grace Community (Rock Hill District/Fort Mill)

  • Capers Chapel (Rock Hill/Chester)

  • Catawba (Rock Hill/Catawba)

  • New Hope/Chester (Rock Hill/Chester)

  • Armenia (Rock Hill/Chester)

  • Mount Vernon (Rock Hill/Hickory Grove)

  • Bethel/Lancaster (Rock Hill/Lancaster)

  • Wesley Chapel (Spartanburg District/Union)

  • Liberty/Campobello (Spartanburg/Landrum)

  • Buffalo (Spartanburg/Buffalo)

  • Campobello (Spartanburg/Campobello)

  • Carlisle (Spartanburg/Carlisle)

  • Bethlehem/Jonesville (Spartanburg/Union)

  • Sardis/Union (Spartanburg/Union)

  • Fosters Chapel (Spartanburg/Jonesville)

  • Lyman (Spartanburg/Lyman)

  • Roebuck (Spartanburg/Roebuck)

  • Reidville Road (Spartanburg/Moore)

  • Walnut Grove (Spartanburg/Roebuck)

  • Tillman (Walterboro District/Tillman)

  • Cottageville (Walterboro/Cottageville)

  • Cypress (Walterboro/Ridgeville)

  • Mount Tabor (Walterboro/Ridgeville)

  • Trinity/Ridgeville (Walterboro/Ridgeville)

  • St. Paul/Ridgeland (Walterboro/Ridgeland)

Here is the full text of the resolution approved:

Resolution of the Board of Trustees of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church to ratify and approve the closure of the below listed churches.

Whereas, the South Carolina Conference has used Para. 2549 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (2016) to close churches. Many of these churches were closed on an ad-interim basis because of exigent circumstances.

Whereas, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church held in 2019 had before the body changes to The Book of Discipline addressing human sexuality. There were no changes made at this conference to any provision addressing human sexuality.

Whereas, the very clear language of Para. 2553 of The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, adopted by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church held in 2019, allows a church to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of The Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality, the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of the annual conference of that particular local church, related to these issues which followed the 2019 General Conference. Giving these words their ordinary meaning, a local church in South Carolina cannot disaffiliate using Para. 2553 of The Book of Discipline because of actions or inaction in other annual conferences.

Whereas, Bishop Holston and the South Carolina Conference have not made any statements contrary to The Book of Discipline on these issues. The South Carolina Conference has affirmed its commitment to the language and positions set forth in The Book of Discipline with consistency.

Whereas, it is clear a number of United Methodist churches in South Carolina find themselves unable to serve the purpose for which they were organized, in that they cannot accept the actions taken in other Conferences of The United Methodist Church and cannot support the possible future actions of future General Conferences as binding on them on the issues of human sexuality. The issues of human sexuality have prevented them in their mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

Whereas, the Board of Trustees, with understanding of the difficulties of owning, insuring, and maintaining closed church properties, with prayer, consultation, and reflection, guided by input of the Cabinet and conference leadership, and with the framework of the Agreement format for disaffiliation, developed and refined a Separation Agreement.

Whereas, this Separation Agreement required the local church to participate in a discernment process, and once that was completed allowed for a Church Conference vote on separation from The United Methodist Church.

Whereas, the following churches have followed this process, and by votes of at least 2/3 majority have voted to separate from The United Methodist Church. They have signed a Separation Agreement, and have placed their payments for separation in escrow.

Whereas, these churches are now before this body for approval of their closure, pursuant to the terms of the Separation Agreement.

Whereas, it is the belief of the Board of Trustees that these closures are the best pathway to allow the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church to follow The Book of Discipline and to allow these churches desiring to depart to do so with grace.

Therefore, be it resolved, that pursuant to the authority granted to the Board of Trustees and to this body under Para. 2549.3(b) of The Book of Discipline, as confirmed by the District Superintendents of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, the Cabinet and Bishop Holston, and authorized by vote of this body, be it here approved that the Separation Agreements duly executed by the following churches shall govern the disposition of the property of the below listed churches. The recorded deeds shall be valid to transfer the title to the real property and this document shall be approved by this body as binding on the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Be it here approved that the following United Methodist churches will be closed effective June 30, 2023.

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Photo by Matt Brodie. Above, the body votes to approve the resolution allowing the churches to close in separation.


See full coverage of South Carolina's 2023 Annual Conference here.

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