DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) – Covenant United Methodist Church has voted to leave its denomination.

According to Senior Pastor Kyle Gatlin, the vote ended with 87.5% of members voting to disaffiliate.

Covenant says that it will remain a United Methodist Church until Annual Conference on May 7. During that meeting, all churches that followed the procedures set forth by the Alabama West Florida Conference will be officially voted out.

The vote was held on Sunday afternoon during a church conference.

Not much will change at Covenant. We are the same church we were last week, last month and last year.  It’s obvious in the vote, that most of our members believed the future of the church would be better served by not being a part of the UMC.

Rev. Kyle Gatlin, Covenant United Methodist Church

Covenant joins Harvest Church, which voted to leave the denomination in January.

Gatlin says that the process started last summer with a meeting of a small representative group. Gatlin then asked the church to spend the rest of 2022, reading, researching, and praying for discernment.

Then this year, the Administrative Council voted twice, both times at over 80%, to take the steps necessary to move towards disaffiliation.

The vote Sunday had no winners or losers. I mourn over the loss. The UMC has been my home since 1968. However, each time I speak about mourning, I always know there is hope on the other side.  So, I am hopeful for our church. I am hopeful for those that agreed and disagreed with our decision. I am also hopeful because I know we are staying true to God’s Word and we will continue to Pursue God and Unleash Compassion.

Rev. Kyle Gatlin, Covenant United Methodist Church

Covenant joins 55 to 60 churches within the Alabama West Florida Conference that have made the same decision. A conference made up of nearly 600 churches.

Two special called sessions will be held in May and November of this year, where churches who have properly fulfilled all the necessary steps will be able to disaffiliate

Bishop David Graves of the conference has encouraged churches to stay a part of the conference and denomination until the 2024 General Conference which will be in April or May of next year.

We grieve the loss of any United Methodist Church in the AWF conference connection. Our conference leadership is focusing our efforts on those churches that are choosing to remain at UMC. We wish exiting churches the very best and pray they will continue to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Statement from the Alabama West Florida Conference