The latest chapter in the ongoing process of churches disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church Denomination played out in Baton Rouge on Thursday. Nine United Methodist ministers, four of whom live in Caddo Parish, filed suit on March 13 in East Baton Rouge Parish District Court against the Louisiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, South Central Jurisdiction. The hearing of that lawsuit was held Thursday, March 23 and Judge Kelly Balfour dismissed the lawsuit deciding that his court did not have jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit. The judge followed a doctrine that states civil courts do not have jurisdiction since the United Methodist Church has its own court to address such issues.
The petition alleged that the Louisiana Annual Conference is not using the proper process to hold meetings where local churches vote on disaffiliating and it asked the court to enjoin the disaffiliation process from proceeding. In their petition, the nine ministers used the First United Methodist Church of Shreveport as their example of what they consider to be a flawed process.
The Louisiana Annual Conference filed an exception to the petition stating that the civil court does not have jurisdiction to hear this case because the United Methodist Church has its own court that hears these kinds of matters. A memorandum filed by the Louisiana Annual Conference states that the church court has already decided against persons making claims similar to those made by the nine ministers.
On Monday March 20, the First United Methodist Church of Shreveport filed an intervention pleading stating that the church has followed the rules regarding disaffiliation and explained the steps taken by that church. The church stated that a meeting is scheduled for April 16 where a vote is to be taken and if that meeting is postponed, it is unlikely that another meeting can take place before the time for having such meetings has expired. At the meeting, two-thirds of the persons present must vote to disaffiliate in order for the church to disaffiliate and thereby become a Methodist church, independent from the United Methodist Church.
The First United Methodist Church of Shreveport is scheduled to vote April 16, 2023 on whether to disaffiliate or remain a member of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Over 67 Methodist churches in Louisiana have already voted to leave the UMC denomination.
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