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Arkansas Methodist Pastor Suspended from Duties Because of Disaffiliation Vote

John Miles, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, has been suspended from his pastoral duties after the congregation voted for a second time to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC) denomination.

Miles preached on Sunday despite his suspension, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

“This is all part of a legal process and I just want you to know I’ll be here Sunday. I plan to be here for the following Sundays,” he said.

Last week, in a letter by Arkansas Bishop Gary Mueller, the congregation was informed the congregational meeting called by Miles was unauthorized based on Methodist polity found in its Book of Church Order, the Jonesboro Sun reported.

The letter added that Miles was warned not to hold the “unauthorized meeting” but did so anyway.

As a result, the Arkansas Conference of the UMC took two actions: it suspended Miles and it “vested title to all property of the First United Methodist Church Jonesboro in the Arkansas Conference Board of Trustees for the protection of the rights of the United Methodist Church and those United Methodists wishing to continue to worship in their church in Jonesboro.”

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At the December 15 meeting, 635 church members voted to disaffiliate. Miles acknowledged that a lot of congregation members who would have voted to stay in the UMC were not present at the meeting.

The church also voted for new bylaws to govern the church.

In August, the congregation first voted in favor of disaffiliation. However, in November, the vote was not ratified by the Arkansas Conference leaders.

“Close to 1,000 churches have disaffiliated, only five have been denied,” Miles told the Jonesboro Sun following the vote. “Three were that day. It was quite a shock.”

Last month, a large Texas church voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from the UMC. The Central Texas Annual Conference has not yet approved the vote.

This summer, over 100 churches in Florida filed suit in order to disaffiliate immediately from the denomination.

The votes are part of a larger, ongoing movement in which more conservative congregations are leaving the UMC because of its moving away from biblical views of sexuality.

Main photo: Pastor John Miles preaching Sunday, Dec. 18 at First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas / Facebook screenshot

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.

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