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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Several churches are no longer affiliated with the United Methodist Church, as some religious leaders fear the church could change traditions when it comes to same-sex couples.

On November 19, representatives from local United Methodist churches in eastern North Carolina met during a special session to receive requests and ratify disaffiliation for 249 churches.

According to the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church’s website, the process for disaffiliation was established in 2019 by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The result was 957 ‘yes’ votes to approve local disaffiliations and 165 ‘no’ votes.

According to the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, the 249 disaffiliating churches represent 32 percent of the congregations in the Conference and about 22 percent of the membership.

“The congregations who are disaffiliating now are choosing to do so because they take exception to the way our Book of Discipline addresses LGBTQIA people, and they want to chart their own course,” Gray Southern, the Assistant to the Bishop for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, said.

Three churches in Raleigh — Asbury Church, Layden Memorial Church, Holland’s Church and a few in surrounding areas — are now going their separate ways from the church because of those views on the LGBTQ+ community.

“The Book of Discipline says that gay people, no less than the rest of us, are beloved of God, and are individuals of sacred worth,” Southern said.

While the United Methodist Church practices welcoming LGBTQ+ communities into their congregations, the church does not celebrate same-sex marriage. Southern says some congregations fear that could change.

“Many of the churches disaffiliating are concerned that in the subsequent General Conference in 2024, or in some subsequent General Conference, the Book of Discipline will be changed to be more open to gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” Southern explained.

A disaffiliated church has two choices. They can either join another denomination or remain an independent congregation. But the separation of individual congregations has caused a strain for individual church members who are now trying to find their spot in church.

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“It’s painful for many of them, many of them are choosing, frankly, not to stay in the church that disaffiliates,” Southern said.

Southern says there is potential for even more congregations throughout the state to disaffiliate.

To find out which churches have disaffiliated, click here.