More than 100 churches are suing the Florida Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) to disaffiliate from the denomination.
The lawsuit comes after a long and slow moving divide in the United Methodist Church, mainly over the ordination and marriage of its LGBTQ members.
In response to the lawsuit, Bishop Ken Carter, who heads both the Florida and Western North Carolina conference, said that the Florida Annual Conference was "deeply grieved by this" as they "seek to be a church united in love and in mission".
The disaffiliation plan would allow churches wishing to leave the denomination to take their properties with them through 2023 after paying apportionments and pension liabilities.
This was added to the Book of Discipline by General Conference delegates in 2019 alongside legislation called the Traditional Plan that strengthened the denomination's language barring the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists.
Bishop Carter went on to say: "We ask that, despite their haste, these groups seeking to break away live up to the responsibilities established by the General Conference in 2019, and that they not cause pain, damage or disparage other United Methodist churches, other members in their churches or other pastors, or the Conference"
Keith Boyette, transitional connectional coordinating officer of the conservative Global Methodist Church, who also recently split from the UMC, said: "Florida is the first of what I would anticipate might be a number of similar lawsuits occurring."