First round of United Methodist disaffiliation has arrived

May 3—Only three Haywood churches so far have voted to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church over differences involving human sexuality.

United Methodist leadership — both clergy and lay delegates — will gather May 6 to vote on the pending requests of churches opting to disaffiliate.

"While this is not a joyful moment, we remain diligent and honor the process of disaffiliation, and we remain in prayer for all involved," Bishop Ken Carter said in a statement. "To those departing, we wish you God's peace. To those remaining, we draw strength from the gifts of grace, connection, and holiness."

The congregations of Plains UMC in Canton, Francis Cove UMC in Waynesville and Peachtree UMC in Maggie Valley have all voted to disaffiliate.

They fall under the umbrella of Smoky Mountain District of the UMC Western North Carolina Conference, which includes 956 churches.

Of those, 192 or about 15%, have opted to leave the denomination.

"We grieve to see any church leave, especially as we believe that we all share the core mission of bringing people into the life of Christ, his love for us and his teaching that we love one another," Carter said. "Nevertheless, the issue of human sexuality has become an irreconcilable difference among us, and some are choosing to leave."

The virtual session on May 6 begins at 10 a.m. and will be streamed live on the conference website YouTube channel and Facebook.

The Saturday vote is one of several steps in the disaffiliation process, something not expected to be final until other conditions in the process are met and the vote is finalized at the general charge conference next year.