Firebrand Magazine: May 1, 2022, was the official launch of the Global Methodist Church. This begins a season of transition for many pastors and churches. UMC Bishop Mike Lowry has stated that, effective on that date, he withdrew from the UMC Council of Bishops to unite to the Global Methodist Church. He takes this step in response to a notice from the Council of Bishops that the Book of Discipline prevents him from serving on the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church while simultaneously holding credentials in the UMC. What follows is both the initial letter from the Council of Bishops and Bishop Lowry’s response.
Letter sent to Bishop Mike Lowry from Bishop Cynthia Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church:
April 21, 2022
Bishop Michael J. Lowry
Dear Bishop Lowry:
Greetings to you in the name of the risen Christ. I pray you and your families are well and that you have found time during this season to experience God’s ongoing grace and power in your life that becomes so profoundly evident in this season of Easter.
Today, I write to ask for clarification on your relationship to the Global Methodist Church as we anticipate the pending launch on May 1. In your current role on the Transition Leadership Council, should you choose to remain on the TLC once the GMC launches, I trust that you understand that you will be required to surrender your United Methodist Clergy credentials as there is no disciplinary provision authorizing an ordained United Methodist minister to hold membership simultaneously in another denomination. Upon joining another denomination, membership in The United Methodist Church is terminated. This was upheld by the Judicial Council in decision 696. In the case of bishops, you will also be expected to resign from the episcopal office in accordance with paragraph 408.4 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016.
I would hope to have a conversation with you by May 1 as to your current standing with the Global Methodist Church and your decision. This is a matter of ultimate integrity to the covenant relationship you entered into at your ordination and to the United Methodist Church that ordained you, elected you, and consecrated you.
In these times of transition, our prayer is that we might bless and send each other into new forms of Methodism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey
Council of Bishops, President
Response to the Council of Bishops sent by Bishop Mike Lowry:
April 28, 2022
Bishop Cynthia Harvey,
President of the Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
Bishop Bob Farr,
President of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
Dear Bishops Harvey and Farr,
I am writing in response to Bishop Harvey’s April 21, 2022 email letter on behalf of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church instructing me that I must either resign from the Transitional Leadership Council prior to the formal launch of the Global Methodist Church on May 1, 2022 or face termination of my membership in the United Methodist Church and resignation from the episcopal office consistent with ¶408.4 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016 and Judicial Council Decision 696.
Under ¶ 360.1 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016, I am notifying you that I am withdrawing from the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church to unite with the Global Methodist Church as of May 1, 2022. No certificate of conference membership was issued to me when I was ordained in The United Methodist Church. Effective May 1, 2022 I resigned from the episcopal office in the United Methodist Church per ¶408.4 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016.
I take this action with a heavy heart and deep grief. I am thankful for the great nurturing and guidance I have received from the United Methodist Church over the course of my life. I have been richly blessed by friendships and support from a numerous cloud of witnesses across the face of the church universal, including members of the Council of Bishops. Nonetheless, Jesus is Lord. It is first and foremost in allegiance to my Lord and Savior that I take this action. Such a move on my part merits a rendering to Christians of good-will the reasons which impel me to leave the United Methodist denomination after more than 47 years of ministry and join the newly emerging Global Methodist Church.
In your letter you [Bishop Harvey] state, “This is a matter of ultimate integrity to the covenant relationship you entered into at your ordination.” While I agree that this is an issue of “ultimate integrity,” I perceive a significant disagreement over what constitutes “ultimate integrity” and where our ultimate allegiance lays. Both at my ordination as an elder and my consecration as a bishop in the United Methodist denomination my vow was, as of first importance, taken to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Secondarily, vows were offered to the institutional expression of the branch of the Church Universal known as The United Methodist Church. I pledged to both God and that Church to uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This I have done with full faithfulness and manifest integrity. Regretfully, I perceive that the institutional expression of The United Methodist Church has strayed in significant ways from faithfully upholding its own stated Discipline and, even more so, departed from the full truth of the gospel. Psalm 119 reminds us: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe your righteous ordinances” (Psalm 119:105-106, NRSV). The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25, NRSV).
The presenting issue, characterized by a dispute over our understanding of human sexuality, more specifically whether or not clergy should be allowed to perform same-gender marriages and whether it is permissible to ordain “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” masks the deeper and truly significant disagreement over what constitutes fidelity to the historic confession of the Christian faith expressed in the normative nature of Holy Scripture as the primary rule of faith, the ecumenical creeds, the Articles of Religion, and Wesley’s Standard Sermons. Put succinctly, the massive iceberg beneath the roiling waters of our looming separation is the ongoing argument over just what constitutes the theological and moral foundations of contemporary Methodism.
I believe “We are in a fight for the faith delivered once for all” (Jude 3, CEB). My decision to withdraw from The United Methodist Church in order to unite with the Global Methodist Church is a response to the ongoing struggle to rediscover and reclaim the historic Wesleyan understanding of the Christian faith anchored in the Holy Trinity and welded to Christ as Lord and Savior. In our day and time, I believe that the expression of Christianity from both the so-called “right” and “left” of North American culture have been captured and co-opted by the cult of contemporary secularism in its various and diverse disguises. Bluntly, the Christian gospel is neither the left-wing of the Democratic party at prayer nor the right-wing of the Republican party soiled by a disdain for the truth. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ transcends all petty pretenders of our idolatrous worship of contemporary culture, including but not limited to hedonism, racism, sexism, greed, and rampant narcissism.
All of us, myself most definitely included, must confess to our complicity to a current cultural captivity and repent of our sin (both individually and corporately). The time for theological toleration saturated with moral indifference is long past. The reality before us is of a diseased Christianity [of both the right and left] that must be countered by “rediscovering radical allegiance to Christ, recognizing the reality of the battle we are in, and reclaiming core Christian orthodoxy” (see A Fight for the Faith Delivered Once for All — Firebrand Magazine, June 29, 2020). The offer of new life in Christ is gracefully given by the Holy and Sovereign Lord of the Universe. Throughout my 47 plus years of ordained ministry, I have been engaged in and remain committed to ministry with, to, and for all people. I believe I see a movement of the Holy Spirit in the current renewal of the Church Universal liberated from cultural Christendom. It is to this higher commitment that I rededicate myself in uniting with the Global Methodist Church on May 1, 2022.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Mike Lowry
Image by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash