SAVANNAH, Ga. — The South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church has voted to allow a Savannah assembly to leave the denomination over its affirmation of those ensnared in the sin of homosexuality.
Asbury Memorial United Methodist Church will now be known as Asbury Memorial Church and identify as non-denominational after the Conference voted on Aug. 15 to let the affiliate go.
According to the Savannah Morning News, members of Asbury Memorial voted 309-7 in September 2019 to part ways with the United Methodist Church. The move took place after the majority of delegates worldwide voted in favor of the “Traditional Plan” during a special session of the General Conference in early 2019, striking down the homosexual-affirming Simple Plan and the compromising One Church Plan.
The vote meant that the denomination would retain its ban on officiating or hosting same-sex “weddings” and ordaining practicing homosexuals. The United Methodist Book of Discipline states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Asbury Memorial, led by Billy Hester, has been welcoming of open homosexuals and wants to officiate same-sex ceremonies.
Hester told the Savannah Morning News that when he took over in the 1990’s, he found the congregation to be “dying” — few in number and a mainly elderly demographic. Having a background in theater, he began presenting musicals in the building, which attracted a number of homosexual residents to audition.
“A lot of those folks were gay, and so most of them didn’t have a church home,” Hester explained. “So when these people came to do the shows, they started singing in the choir and things like that, so we became known as a very safe place for people to land. That’s how it started growing.”
“Our LGBTQ members have helped us become a growing, vital congregation in the Savannah community,” he also remarked in a statement. “Asbury Memorial has always been a welcoming, all-inclusive congregation and we are excited about our future as an independent non-denominational church.”
He said that he wants Asbury Memorial to be “a Christ-centered, forward-thinking, all-inclusive congregation that celebrates the joy of God creatively and is a welcoming and affirming congregation for all,” and thanked the South Georgia Conference and others for allowing them to part ways with the denomination.
As previously reported, in January, it was conversely proposed that The United Methodist Church mutually agree for “traditionalist” United Methodists to leave and form their own denomination, so that those remaining can remove the biblical prohibition on homosexuality as encompassed in the Book of Discipline and thus allow for same-sex “marriages” in churches and the ordination of homosexual clergy.
While the common argument among those who identify as homosexual is that they were “born that way” and cannot change, the Bible teaches that all men are in the exact same predicament:
All are born with the Adamic sin nature and are therefore “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), having various inherent inclinations that are contrary to the law and will of God and being utterly incapable of changing by themselves (Job 14:4).
It is why Jesus came: to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) and that they might be “saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9) — taking out of the way for those who are saved both the penalty for, and the power of, sin.
Jesus outlined in John 3:5-7 that men must be regenerated by the second birth, and be transformed from being in Adam to being in Christ, or they cannot see the kingdom of Heaven. This work of the Holy Spirit is known in Christianity as the doctrine of regeneration.
Scripture also states that those who do not adhere to godliness and sound teaching are those who cause divisions in the Church, not the other way around.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them,” Romans 16:17 states. “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. [But] your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf, but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”