Estonian Methodists leave global group after LGBT conflict
The Methodist churches in Estonia have decided to leave their global mother church. A large majority voted for secession.
During a church meeting, 97 per cent of the attending representatives indicated their support for leaving the United Methodist Church (UMC). The reason for their leave is the progressive course the UMC seems to be taking, Dagen writes.
It is not the first time that the LGBT issue threatens the unity of the United Methodist Church. In May, some conservative congregations in the United States decided to break away and form their own denomination, the Global Methodist Church. Since then, several hundred local Methodist churches have joined the new group.
Already in 2022, the Estonian branch of Methodist Churches expressed the wish to leave the denomination as well, the UMC writes in a press release. At the time, they were also concerned over "the direction the denomination seems to be taking."
Even though the Estonian Methodists wanted to leave peacefully, their departure was not without tension. Some representatives of the United Methodist Church strongly opposed the regulation that the Estonian churches were allowed to keep their property, but also that they are allowed to hold conferences in the conference building of the global denomination to "set their own standards for ordination and for the solemnisation of marriage."
The Estonian churches have six months to remove the logo of the Methodist church, the cross and the flame from their buildings, websites and documents.
It is not clear what the seceded churches in Estonia will do. For now, the 23 congregations have decided to form their own independent community.
At the same time, they will keep close contact with the UMC, Dagen writes. Both parties signed an agreement in which they promised to recognise each other's sacraments and ordinations. Also, they agree to work for good relations, cooperate on mission issues if possible and welcome each other's members.
The bishop of the Methodist Church in the Nordics and Baltics expresses disappointment about the Estonian decision, Dagen writes. "Personally, I feel sadness in my heart after the withdrawal. I think the decision is unnecessary, and I think it means a loss for the Methodists in Estonia as well as for the entire UMC", Danish bishop Christian Alsted says. Yet, he respects the decision and emphasises that he stands "by the commitment to help all annual conferences, districts and local churches in the Nordics, Baltics and Ukraine to exist in a future where they believe they can serve with integrity."
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