Mt. Bethel UMC to break away from Methodist Church after conference tried to reassign pastor

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Leaders of one of the largest churches in Cobb County now say they will seek to break away from the United Methodist Church over the way they say the church tried to reassign their pastor.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot learned there is a fierce debate within the United Methodist Church over the direction it should go: more traditional or less traditional.

On Monday, that fight came to Cobb County. The Rev. Dr. Jody Ray told the 4,600 members of Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church he’d rather resign as a senior pastor within the UMC than leave their church.

“So today, while I surrender my credentials, I am not ending my relationship with the wonderful people at Mount Bethel United Methodist Church,” Ray said.

He’s upset over the way he says the UMC’s north Georgia conference tried to force him out and reassign him, though he didn’t get into the reasons why they wanted to do so.

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Mt. Bethel responded by saying it would seek to break away from the UMC altogether.

“Therefore, given the recent actions of our bishop and the direction of the United Methodist denomination, both the leadership and members of Mt Bethel strongly believe it is time for us to part ways with the denomination,” said Rustin Parsons with Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church.

This is just a small part of a much larger debate raging within the UMC as a whole -- a debate over traditional biblical teachings and the church’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.

In a statement, UMC Bishop Sue Haupert-Kohnson defended the decision to reassign Ray, saying it wasn’t at all an unusual thing and insinuated it was church leaders who weren’t cooperating with her decision:

“I understand how emotion can get the better of some among us when faced with change. Change is hard. Occasionally, individuals dealing with such change will attempt to distort the reality and see this as an us versus them situation. Additionally, some may mask the truth and provide false information to tell their congregants as a way to react to a pastor’s reassignment.”

Breaking away is called disaffiliation. It’s a complicated process involving a lot more than just church doctrine.

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