Georgia megachurch asks court to allow vote on leaving UMC after pastor was reassigned

Georgia megachurch asks court to allow vote on leaving UMC after pastor was reassigned By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter

A Georgia megachurch has requested an injunction against a regional body of the United Methodist Church, claiming that the denomination is unlawfully interfering with its plans to hold a vote on whether to disaffiliate with America’s second-largest Protestant denomination.

The Marietta-based Mt. Bethel Church, which boasts approximately 10,000 members, filed a motion for an interlocutory injunction in the Superior Court of Cobb County Monday against various UMC North Georgia Conference officials. The legal filing was a counterclaim in response to a lawsuit filed by the conference on Sept. 8.

According to Mt. Bethel, the issue is the congregation’s desire to move forward with a congregational vote to determine if the church will disaffiliate from the UMC and how, according to the motion, the regional church leadership is stopping them from doing so.

“Mt. Bethel expects to prevail on the merits of Petitioner Trustees’ claims,” states the motion,  a copy of which was emailed to The Christian Post on Tuesday.

“However, interlocutory relief is necessary during the pendency of this litigation to prevent delay and irreparable harm caused by the Regional UMC Administrators’ actions from depriving Mt. Bethel of the right to disaffiliate from the UMC and keep its property.”

Jeffrey A. Daxe, an attorney representing Mt. Bethel, told CP that the defendants are waiting for a hearing to be scheduled.

Although both parties had previously agreed to engage in mediation in late July over the disputed process and property and asset ownership questions, Daxe said the effort failed to produce an agreement.

“Despite Mt. Bethel’s best efforts, we were not able to come to a mediated solution with Bishop Sue Haupert-Jonhson and the Trustees of the North Georgia Conference,” he said.

In a statement emailed to CP on Tuesday, the North Georgia Conference Communications Office stated that the conference believes Mt. Bethel’s claims in the legal filings lack merit.

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