CAROLINA FOREST, S.C. (WBTW) — With more than 110 Pee Dee churches leaving the United Methodist Church, local Methodist churches told News13 that it is like losing a family member.

One church in Carolina Forest spoke with News13’s Maya Lockett on their decision to stay.

Ann Sowers, Lay Leader of the Joseph B. Bethea United Methodist Church said that it is sad for both sides.

“It’s saddening,” she said. “It is disheartening for both parties for those who have left and those who remain to stay.”

One hundred and thirteen churches across South Carolina, including dozens in the Florence, Hartsville and Marion districts are separating from the UMC in a dispute over sexuality doctrine.

According to the conference, the churches “determined that they can no longer function as a United Methodist Church because they firmly believe that the denomination has not consistently upheld its stated doctrine on issues of human sexuality. However, the United Methodist book of discipline prohibits performing same-gender weddings and the practice of homosexuality.”

“There has always been discussion since about that 2019 timeframe, as to will churches stay, will churches disaffiliate, Sowers said.

Joseph B. Bethea United Methodist Church in Carolina Forest is one of the churches that decided to stay with the UMC.

“We want to stay a United Methodist Church and we welcome everyone regardless of how they identify their station, their walk in life, whether they’ve been to church before, if they’ve never been inside a church, whether they want to stay a United Methodist and now find themselves without a church home,” Sowers said.

The conference also approved a new church law offering UMC churches a path out of the UMC with their church buildings and property.

“We send them with blessings, we wish them the best,” Sowers said. “And we seek opportunities to continue to partner with them in ministry. But it hurts.”

The South Carolina UMC has not confirmed if they will change their stance on homosexuality.

News13 did reach out to some of the churches who left the UMC in our local areas but have not heard back.

To visit Joseph B. Bethea’s website, click here.

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