Asbury Memorial Church in Savannah, Georgia announced on Thursday that it has completed the process of disaffiliating from the United Methodist Church (UMC) over LGBT rights.

In a press release, Asbury Memorial said that it believes it is the first church in the United States to leave the denomination “due to its unequal treatment of LGBTQ people.”

Church officials voted on Asbury Memorial's desire to disaffiliate from the UMC at its annual South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church held last month.

Asbury Memorial will become an independent non-denominational church.

Asbury Memorial said that its decision to leave the UMC came after church leaders voted last year to strengthen its bans on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT clergy. At a meeting held last year in St. Louis, delegates voted down a proposal that sought to allow local and regional church bodies to decide on such issues. Instead, delegates approved language upholding UMC policy established in 1972 which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

“Our LGBTQ members have helped us become a growing vital congregation in the Savannah community,” Pastor Billy Hester said in a statement. “Our worship and ethos will continue to be based on Wesleyan theology – which is at the root of the Methodist church.”

Asbury Memorial, which is currently holding virtual worship during the coronavirus pandemic, said that it is planning a series of new initiatives in September, including a special ceremony to recognize couples who have not been able to marry at Asbury Memorial since late 2016, when the church stopped all weddings until it can include same-sex couples.