The group of congregations filed the suit on July 14 against the UMC’s Florida Annual Conference in the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial Circuit for Bradford County, Civil Division.
“The Annual Conference has taken the position that it is entitled to keep the Grace UMC Property — which was owned and paid for by Grace UMC long before The UMC and the Annual Conference ever existed — unless Grace UMC pays a substantial payment of money as unilaterally determined by the Annual Conference Defendant,” the suit reads.
Grace United Methodist Church of Lawtey, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, argued it should not be forced to buy its property from the regional body because it purchased the location before the denomination was founded in 1968.
The Florida churches are represented by the National Center for Life & Liberty.
“The reason the lawsuit was filed was that the 106 churches believed that the Florida Annual Conference is not being equitable in creating a split that they’re able to successfully minister in the communities for the Gospel,” the group’s CFO Jonathan Bailie told the Christian Post.
“The churches are frustrated with the annual conference’s violations of the Book of Discipline and refusal to honor the Traditional Plan as outlined in the 2019 General Conference,” he added.
The issue hit a high point when Kenneth Carter, Resident Bishop of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, refused to enforce actions against an openly lesbian bishop in St. Petersburg, according toThe Tallahassee Democrat.
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