With a Deadline Looming, the United Methodist Church Breaks Up

With 17,000 members, White’s Chapel Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, offers multiple worship services each weekend along with the kind of attractions that only the largest houses of worship can boast: a coffee shop, an indoor playground, a Christmas festival with pony rides and fireworks, and near-daily opportunities for volunteering and socializing. On Sunday mornings, a small white bulldog named Wesley, after the founder of Methodism, roams the campus with a handler, greeting admirers.

“They call this place the biggest small church,” said Linda Rutan, who was sitting with her husband near a sprawling holiday train set on a recent Sunday morning. The Rutans have attended White’s Chapel since they moved to Texas from California in 2022. “It’s so friendly,” she said, “you don’t feel like it’s a huge church.”

Until July, White’s Chapel was the second-largest United Methodist congregation in the country. The conservative-leaning church lost its status this year not because it shrank — it is growing, leaders say — but because it left the denomination.

America’s second-largest Protestant denomination is in the final stages of a slow-motion rupture that has so far seen the departure of a quarter of the nation’s roughly 30,000 United Methodist churches, according to the denomination’s news agency.

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