A Bishop Says Goodbye to The United Methodist Church

May 11, 2022

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
[Address deleted]

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
[Address deleted]

Bishop Bob Farr,
President of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
[Address deleted]

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

7 Comments

  1. Bishop Lowry lays bare the ugly problem of the United Methodist Church while exposing the rabid hypocrisy of its leadership thereof. This is the leadership that called the 2019 Special General Conference to solve our human sexuality conflict, the leadership that didn’t get its way there, and the leadership that then vowed to NOT abide by the legislation passed. Now, this leadership is aggressively proclaiming that General Conference is the law making body of the church – that this leadership is now blocking from meeting to enact law — and General Conference law and the Book of Discipline must be followed to the letter of the law on DISAFFILIATION. This is the leadership that utters the words, ULTIMATE INTEGRITY.

  2. In addition, will the Council of Bishops, the Judicial Council, the entire hierarchy of the United Methodist Church now call on enforcement of the Book of Discipline as rigidly, non-negotiability, precisely, and to the letter of the law regarding General Conference passed legislation with relation to human sexuality and marriage to the same degree that is being used with DISAFFILIATION — beginning with Bishop Karen Oliveto surrendering her UMC credentials?

    THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE ON SEXUAL ETHICS AND MARRIAGE:

    (1) BOD Social Principles: We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman. We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union. We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

    (2) BOD 304: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, Board of Ordained Ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual; or is living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual. In all votes regarding license, ordination, or conference membership, the requirements set forth herein are minimum requirements. Each person voting is expected to vote prayerfully based on personal judgment of the applicant’s gifts, evidence of God’s grace, and promise of future usefulness for the mission of the Church. The district committee on ordained ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry shall not approve or recommend any person for candidacy, licensing, commissioning, or ordination who does not meet the qualifications of BOD 304, based on the full examination and thorough inquiry into the person’s fitness by the committee and board.

    (3). BOD 2711: Penalties—If the Trial Results in Conviction ………. where the conviction is for conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies, the trial court does not have the power to and may not fix a penalty less than the following:
    a) First (1st) offense – One (1) year’s suspension without pay.
    b) Second (2nd) offense – Not less than termination of conference membership and revocation of credentials of licensing, ordination, or consecration.

    (3) BOD 806.9: The [conference council on finance and administration] shall have authority and responsibility to perform the following functions: To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of The UMC “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends”. The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures.

  3. Re: Bishop Mike Lowry’s declaration . . . AMEN!

  4. I laughed out loud when I read Bishop Harvey’s admonitions to Bishop Lowry about the “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” as the reason he must resign his UM ordination and status as a retired bishop.

    Do UM leaders have any idea how utterly absurd they sound when they talk this way? Have they no insight into themselves, no sense of irony, hypocrisy, or shame?

    So many UM bishops and clergy have for years constantly violated the covenant they made at their ordination to “honor and uphold the doctrine and discipline” of the UM church. Especially over sexual standards and ethics, but in so many other doctrinal areas as well. They have zero “integrity,” and thus are infinitely distant from “ultimate integrity.”

    But no matter, it is Bishop Lowry–who did uphold with integrity the covenant promises he made at his ordination and after his election as a bishop–who has to leave, not the countless unaccountable leaders like Bishop Harvey.

    What a complete joke the UM church–or at least its leadership–has become. Its moral and spiritual bankruptcy–to be followed by financial bankruptcy and ultimate death–is fast approaching. It can’t come soon enough for faithful Christians.

    Godspeed and His blessings to Bishop Lowry and the Global Methodist Church! A church that has a future as a Wesleyan church in the US and the world.

  5. My church has declared a month of prayer and meditation before we vote in August of this year to stay or disaffiliate from the UMC. This week about 15 members of my church met and divided ourselves into 3 smaller groups. It was pretty obvious to me that everyone in my group only wanted to talk about the administrative process of disaffiliation. I felt compelled to voice my opinion that talking about the process was not the purpose of the small groups. The purpose was to open our minds and hearts as to why we wanted to stay or break away. I think we had a good discussion but still very guarded about how we felt on the homosexual issue, which is really the tip of the much bigger issue concerning scripture and the divinity of Christ. Unfortunately, I think my church will not vote to go Global but default or “punt” as they say. God calls us to be faithful to his word. Why shouldn’t we be faithful, because he has always been faithful to us.

  6. “This is a matter of ultimate integrity to the covenant relationship you entered into at your ordination.” This would be laughable if it were not so tragic. I live in North GA and spent 50 years in ministry in the UMC. I transferred my credentials to the GMC in May, 2022. It is the lack of integrity in the episcopacy, boards and agencies, etc. which has forced this split. Thank God for Bishops like Mike Lowry.

  7. I pray many follow the example of Bishop Mike Lowry.

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