What’s It All About?

What’s It All About?

By Thomas Lambrecht

There was a popular song in the 1960’s, “What’s It All About, Alfie?” It asks the question, what is life and love all about? It was the theme song of the movie, Alfie, in which a wayward man is searching for meaning in life.

With the postponement of General Conference until 2024 and the announced launch of the Global Methodist Church on May 1, 2022, many people across The United Methodist Church are waking up to the reality of separation in our denomination. Hundreds of churches are applying for disaffiliation from the UM Church. Hundreds more are discerning whether their future lies in the GM Church. In the process, thousands of laypersons who have been in the dark about all the conflicts leading up to this point are asking, “What’s it all about?” Why are many churches leaving the UM Church? Why would our congregation consider leaving for the GM Church?

This article aims to give a succinct, but not exhaustive, summary of what is at stake.

Theological Crisis

Baked into the DNA of United Methodism since 1972 is the idea of theological pluralism – that there are many different understandings of the faith and nearly all understandings are welcome within United Methodism. From the time our denomination was founded, we have not had a coherent, unified understanding of our faith. Is Jesus without sin and error, or was he a flawed human being like the rest of us who somehow became a revered moral teacher? Was Jesus’ death on the cross necessary for our salvation, or was it an act of so-called “divine child abuse?” Did Jesus really rise bodily from the grave, or was his “resurrection” only a greater spiritual awareness on the part of his disciples?

From the beginning of our church in the 1960’s, many boards of ordained ministry have approved candidates for ordination who believed and taught very diverse understandings of the faith. Beneath headline-grabbing issues such as marriage and sexuality, root theological issues have divided United Methodists for decades revolving around evangelism, church planting, the Great Commission, Sunday school curriculum, and even the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. Those moving into the GM Church believe clergy (and indeed all Christians) should be able to recite the Apostles’ Creed without holding crossed fingers behind our back or reinterpreting the words to mean something other than what they say.

One way this doctrinal pluralism manifests itself is through disagreements over the understanding and interpretation of Scripture. Is the Bible “the true rule and guide for faith and practice” we say it is in our doctrinal standards (Confession of Faith, Article IV)? The United Methodist Church affirms, “Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation” (Ibid). Yet, many bishops, clergy, and UM leaders, for example, want to rewrite the biblical understanding of marriage taught in Scripture (e.g., Matthew 19:2-9) and ignore or countermand the explicit teaching of Scripture that same-sex relationships are not in keeping with God’s design for human relationships (e.g., Romans 1:21-27; I Corinthians 6:9-11). Some high-profile United Methodist leaders would go so far as to relegate whole chunks of the Bible to the category of “they never reflected God’s timeless will.”

This disregard for the clear teaching of Scripture undermines its authority. If the Bible can be wrong about one important aspect of Christian theology, can it be wrong about other aspects of faith? The Bible should be our authority for what to believe, not what aspects of Scripture we accept as God’s self-revelation and what aspects we ignore. In the latter case, we become the authority for our own faith. But that approach contradicts what we say we believe as United Methodists. We would no longer be true to our Wesleyan understanding.

The theological crisis manifests itself most clearly right now in attempts to officially contradict Scripture by affirming same-sex relationships. We don’t vote at General Conference on the deity of Jesus or whether God performs miracles. But that crisis also manifests itself every time a pastor preaches an Easter sermon without reference to the resurrection or communicates that the way to salvation is “doing all the good you can” apart from Jesus’ atoning death on the cross.

For decades, our denomination has been able to muddle through despite all these theological differences. What has cast the church into an existential turning point now is the second crisis, an ecclesiastical crisis.

Ecclesiastical Crisis

The short description of our ecclesiastical crisis is that The United Methodist Church has now become unable to function by the processes and rules set by our church constitution. Over the years, bishops and other leaders who disagreed with the church’s teachings have increasingly turned a blind eye to violations of that teaching. The unwillingness to hold one another accountable to the teachings and practices of the church is the acid that has eaten away the foundation of our denomination.

In 2002, then-Bishop Joseph Sprague published a book, Affirmations of a Dissenter, that reinterpreted or denied many of the main tenets of Christianity. A complaint was filed against him for “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church.” Those in charge of adjudicating that complaint took no disciplinary action against Sprague. Apparently, his beliefs were within the pluralistic realm of United Methodist faith.

Over the last 20 years, the accountability processes for clergy and bishops have broken down. Bishops have decided to circumvent the process by “resolving” complaints with little or no discipline for clergy who violate our church’s requirements. By the same token, complaints against bishops are “resolved” with no accountability by those bishops and church leaders entrusted with upholding the church’s Discipline. Bishops and leaders are only willing to enforce those provisions they agree with.

In 2016, the denomination appeared ready to unravel at General Conference. As a last-ditch effort to preserve unity, General Conference authorized a Commission on the Way Forward to figure out a solution and bring it to a special 3-day General Conference to be held in 2019. Contrary to the wishes and lobbying of many U.S. bishops, the 2019 General Conference reaffirmed once again the church’s historic stance on the definition of marriage and the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians. It further added accountability provisions to ensure that the church’s clergy and bishops would abide by the church’s teachings.

In response, many U.S. bishops and annual conferences publicly apologized for the conference’s decision and sought to distance themselves from it. More than half the U.S. annual conferences passed resolutions repudiating the decision of General Conference, with at least 11 saying they would not abide by it. Several annual conferences in spring 2019 ordained persons as clergy who did not meet the denomination’s qualifications. One European central conference removed the church’s teachings from its Social Principles. Another European annual conference and the whole U.S. Western Jurisdiction began looking into the possibility of separating from the UM Church because they disagreed with the General Conference stance.

Faced with this widespread rebellion against church teaching in parts of the U.S. and Western Europe, a group of bishops and church leaders representing traditionalist, centrist, and progressive theological perspectives agreed to a proposal for amicable separation. Called the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, this proposal provided a clear and amicable way for traditionalist congregations and clergy to leave the UM Church, allowing the church to then change its teaching to accommodate a progressive understanding. (For more analysis on why traditionalists are willing to be the ones to move to a new church, despite the current Discipline upholding a traditionalist position, see this article.)

The Protocol was poised to pass at the May 2020 General Conference. With the pandemic causing the postponement of General Conference, finally now until 2024, progressives became increasingly impatient to move the church in a progressive direction. Several annual conferences adopted vision statements that stated they would now start “living into” the future they envisioned, despite the fact that the provisions in the Discipline remain unchanged.

Some individual bishops began taking punitive actions against traditionalist clergy, removing them from their appointments and in some cases even expelling them from the denomination without due process or trial. None of these bishops has been held accountable for their actions. There are bishops now who are openly stating that the General Conference (the only body empowered by our church constitution to make decisions for the whole denomination) can no longer adequately govern the church.

We have evolved to the point in our denomination that the actions and decisions of General Conference can be ignored with impunity by bishops and annual conferences that disagree. Bishops have become a law unto themselves within their own annual conferences, not subject to accountability to other bishops or the broader church. Decisions of the Judicial Council can be ignored. The third postponement of General Conference indicates that the power of institutional preservation of the status quo is greater than the inclination to move into a healthier future. Many progressives and centrists seem increasingly uninterested in an amicable way to allow separation to occur. Instead, many seem to want to punish traditionalists for holding the beliefs that we have and at the same time doing whatever they can to delay or prevent traditionalist clergy and churches from separating from the UM Church in order to join a GM Church that more faithfully represents our faith perspective.

End Game

Where does this leave us, besides in a mess? Given the theological and ecclesiastical dysfunction of the church, many traditionalists are no longer able to wait for General Conference to pass the Protocol. The longer the delay, the less likely its adoption becomes. Meanwhile, theologically conservative church members are leaving our churches and clergy are retiring or leaving the church. Hundreds of churches have requested disaffiliation from the UM Church this year, with hundreds more contemplating that possibility over the next 24 months, even before General Conference meets.

To accommodate this groundswell of departures and to prevent the loss of these congregations to Methodism, the Global Methodist Church has announced it will launch on May 1 of this year. As last week’s Perspective explained, there are ways for a church to move to the GM Church with its property and assets intact. In some annual conferences, the way may be prohibitively expensive, but it is still possible.

Hopefully, the narrative in this article helps explain why many churches are willing to do what they must in order to separate from the UM Church.

 

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News

Temptations of Power: Bishops and Accountability

Temptations of Power: Bishops and Accountability

By Joseph F. DiPaolo

​​​​​​​A famous phrase was born in 1887, when the British historian known as Lord Acton (1834-1902), wrote a series of letters to Anglican Bishop Mandell Creighton about the problem of writing the history of the medieval church and its abuses, such as the Inquisition:

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases … Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely … There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

I fear that we are seeing the dangers of unchecked power now beginning to play out among some bishops of The United Methodist Church.

In a previous article, I outlined what I believe to be insincere efforts to hold General Conference and the flawed process the Commission on the General Conference used to decide to postpone it. In this article, I want to widen our view to the potential institutional fallout of that decision.

With the recent decision that no General Conference will meet until 2024 – five years after the special session of 2019 and a full eight years after its last full session in 2016 – a power void has been created, into which many of our bishops are now stepping.

Our polity is clear: General Conference is the governing body of the UM Church, not the Council of Bishops. General Conference alone determines the content of the Book of Discipline and makes policy for the whole denomination. Bishops are supposed to implement those policies.

Now, however, with no General Conference, critical decisions cannot be made about all the challenges before the UM Church, including theological division, separation and restructuring plans, questions of discipline and accountability, approval of agency budgets and personnel changes, and more. So, by default, bishops are now beginning to step into roles they were never intended to have, effectively wresting control of the governance of The United Methodist Church away from the General Conference.

How will this play out? We already see it happening. Be wary and prepare to ask questions if some bishops:

  • Increasingly use talking points about how our system of governance is not working, and that pressing matters require them to act in unprecedented ways.
  • “Interpret” critical passages of the Discipline – like Paragraphs 2548.2 and 2553 – in ways that depend on their regional context, or disallow disaffiliation under these paragraphs entirely, to maximize their control and thwart the aspirations of traditionalist congregations.
  • Increasingly ignore those provisions of the Discipline with which they disagree or that are inconvenient for the bishop’s agenda.
  • Call for jurisdictional conferences to be held – despite the fact that the Discipline arguably does not allow for that without General Conference meeting first – so they can pack the Council of Bishops with more progressives and displace conservatives.
  • Contend that the 2024 General Conference is actually the postponed 2020 General Conference. Whatever their stated reasons for this, the real reason may be to retain a higher proportion of progressive delegates from the US vis-a-vis international delegates. That is because delegate elections for 2020 were based on 2016 membership figures. Delegate elections for 2024 would be based on 2020 membership figures, which will surely result in a lower proportion of US delegates after four more years of US membership decline and African church growth. (Judicial Council will eventually decide this question.)

There is now little or no way to hold bishops accountable or prevent them from enacting whatever policies they personally deem best. As some have said, we have moved into a diocesan model for bishops, where each bishop is a law unto themselves. Some bishops will continue to ignore parts of the Disciplinethey don’t like, while insisting on the letter of the law for those of us who want an amicable separation. Some will increasingly use their power in tyrannical ways to hold on to as much money and property as they possibly can for the institutional preservation of their annual conferences.

Some bishops are counting on traditionalist United Methodists throwing up their hands and walking away. Many undoubtedly will, especially in larger and wealthier churches that can raise the high price of using the disaffiliation clause (which, by the way, expires at the end of 2023, now that there will be no General Conference in 2022 that could have extended it). Without the Protocol, many traditionalist churches and pastors will find it much more difficult to leave with their property.

In fairness, bishops should use the congregational transfer available in ¶ 2548.2 and implement the principles of the Protocol for congregations choosing to move into the Global Methodist Church. Bishops seeking to provide an amicable resolution to our theological divide have a ready-made avenue in the Discipline that does not expire and does not require onerous financial terms. Several bishops have publicly stated that they want to help churches arrive at the destination where they need to be, honoring their consciences and theological commitments. Bishops have the choice to take this path of peace, rather than escalating the conflict and trying to coerce churches into remaining United Methodist against their will by imposing punitive requirements.

Lord Action’s assertion that power corrupts remains as true today as ever, as does his observation that the mere holding of a sacred office – like that of bishop – does not sanctify its holders, or immunize them from acting in authoritarian ways.

Time will tell how some bishops’ power grab will play out among United Methodists.​​​​​​​

 

Joseph F. DiPaolo is Lead Pastor at Lancaster First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Council and a former member of the Commission on the General Conference.

VIDEO: Rob Renfroe on the Postponement of General Conference

VIDEO: Rob Renfroe on the Postponement of General Conference

The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, discusses the further postponement of General Conference and the launching of the Global Methodist Church. To watch his video, click HERE.

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GOOD NEWS BOARD ENDORSES LAUNCH OF GLOBAL METHODIST CHURCH

The Good News board of directors fully endorses the formation of the Global Methodist Church and is encouraged by its announced launch date of May 1. We are grateful for the work of hundreds of lay and clergy leaders who have worked to create the framework for a new Wesleyan movement that will be centered on Christ, founded upon the Scriptures, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

We regret that such a step is necessary. The theological divide in The United Methodist Church has grown so deep and acrimonious that continuing together will only multiply the harm done to people and congregations on all sides. We affirm the decision to move ahead with separation now, given the lack of urgency by church leaders to resolve the crisis and the evident dysfunction of our denominational governance processes.

Many United Methodist members, pastors, and congregations will move to the GM Church immediately. Others will need more time to negotiate a fair exit from their annual conferences. Some may pursue other faithful options for moving into the future. But the birth of the Global Methodist Church gives hope to all orthodox Methodists that a new and better day is dawning.

We express our deepest gratitude to those who have made the launch of the GM Church possible. We pray for the new church’s success in making disciples of Jesus Christ and spreading Scriptural holiness across the land. And we commend the Global Methodist Church to all Wesleyans who believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

Why I Resigned from the Commission on General Conference

Why I Resigned from the Commission on General Conference

By Joseph F. DiPaolo –

President Abraham Lincoln was once taken to task by a congressional ally for changing a policy position. “Mr. President, you have changed your mind entirely within a short time.” Convinced that recent events and new information required a change of heart, Lincoln replied, “Yes, I have, and I don’t think much of a man who isn’t wiser today than he was yesterday.”

Perhaps I’ve been wizened, or maybe I just woke up, but I have changed my mind about The United Methodist Church’s Commission on General Conference (COGC). Last September, Outlook published my reassurances that the members and staff of the COGC were doing all they could to ensure the postponed General Conference would be held as scheduled this summer.

I no longer believe that to have been true.

I am grieved and heartbroken over what I have experienced in the last two months as a member of the Commission, and on Monday (March 7), I resigned from that body in protest over the decision to postpone again. I cited as a primary reason for resigning that I had lost trust in the integrity of the process. The Commission deliberated in closed sessions which, we were told, were necessary to protect sensitive contract negotiations (with vendors and venues) which could be jeopardized if the internal debate were made public. Now that the news is out, the church at large deserves to know what happened.

At our January meeting, a surprise motion was made to postpone General Conference due to the ongoing pandemic, and the challenges faced by many non-U.S. delegates to obtain vaccinations. This was unexpected since we thought we were to receive status reports and facts, and then make a final decision at one of two subsequent meetings scheduled for February and March. It was also odd, since many organizations were then moving full-steam ahead with plans for international conferences in 2022. Some members frankly seemed a little too eager to cancel. Fortunately, a majority decided such a move was premature and we voted to delay a final decision to February or March.

At that same meeting, Commission members asked how many non-U.S. delegates were vaccinated – a requirement to obtain entry visas to the U.S. Apparently, no effort had been made to track that information, since the initial reaction from staff was that we could not ask such private medical information. I pointed out that we were not interested in delegates’ medical histories, only if they had been vaccinated, which would have to be disclosed to get visas. We asked for a report on visas and vaccination rates to be prepared prior to our February 24 meeting.

Two days before that meeting, I sent a letter to all commission members, which, among other things, reminded them that we were to receive that report. My email was sent out at 11:28 AM (EST) on Tuesday, February 22. Just a few hours later, beginning around 2:15 PM (as indicated from emails forwarded to me from delegates), General Conference General Secretary Gary Graves began sending emails to all General Conference delegates asking for their vaccination status, with a response deadline of the next day at 5 PM (EST).

It is hard not to conclude that the staff never took the request seriously and were scrambling at the last minute to cover themselves. Despite the short notice, however, Graves reported that he had received about 500 responses, with more than 90 percent indicating they had received at least one vaccination (the others either refused to answer on privacy grounds or were unvaccinated).

With that data, as well as general knowledge of falling infection rates and the relaxation of many restrictions on travel and large gatherings, COVID could no longer be an excuse to cancel. The discussion then turned to how hard it would be for non-U.S. delegates to schedule interviews for entry visas. To obtain visa interviews at U.S. embassies, the COGC staff must send an official letter of invitation to delegates. But none had been sent – which seems doubly suspicious in light of another document sent to Commission members less than two days before our meeting. This document listed all the wait times for US embassies for delegates to obtain visa interviews. In some countries, the wait time was well beyond the August 29, 2022, opening day of General Conference. In some cases, it was over a year! The date and place of the 2022 GC had been known since March 2021 – yet the staff had never sent out any letters of invitation to get on the schedules as soon as possible. Had they not been tracking the wait times during that period? If not, why not? If so, why were letters not sent to get ahead of the deadlines?

Interestingly, the staff said delegates in some countries might have 10-year visas; and it was learned that others had found ways to obtain visas from embassies in neighboring countries where wait times were shorter. But there was no detailed analysis of all these variables. When asked what percentage of delegates typically have not been seated in past General Conferences for whatever reasons, we were told it has approached as high as 10 percent. This time we were warned, it could 20 to 30 percent – yet again, with no supporting analysis or documentation.

And it was also clear that no serious attempt was made to revisit the possibility of a having an off-site gathering of delegates in Africa or elsewhere for virtual participation. I later learned that Dr. Kent Millard, President of United Theological Seminary had offered information about a hybrid process used for the General Conferences of the African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Churches, but this information was never seriously studied or even reported to the Commission.

All this raises the legitimate question whether some members, leaders and staff of the COGC ever intended to hold the General Conference in 2022 and were simply leading other Commission members on to achieve a pre-arranged outcome. Nonetheless, a lengthy and robust debate went on during the 3.5-hour meeting on February 24, 2022, and the final vote to postpone was deeply divided, at 14 in favor and 9 opposed (with 1 abstention). Another suspicious feature was that the African members of the Commission argued that we should hold the 2022 conference as scheduled, while white U.S. members argued it would be a kind of “colonialism” to do so if it meant risking a higher number of Africans being absent!

It could have been done. By the way, we were told that the UM Church may lose as much as $3 million in forfeiture fees and penalties for cancelling the General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That money could have been used to purchase tech support, equipment, or even additional staff to make a hybrid international conference happen – which many organizations have already done.

Because of this unwise and unnecessary decision to postpone, the highest governing body of the UM Church will not be able to meet to address the crisis that is fracturing our denomination or deliberate on the various plans which were proposed to address it. I fear we will shortly see renewed and intensified internal conflict across our connection. The experience of other mainline denominations that have divided without an amicable plan of separation suggests that many millions of dollars will now be wasted in legal battles over property.

None of this was necessary. The people of The United Methodist Church deserved better from the Commission. And you deserved better from me. Please accept my apology for deceiving myself – and misleading you – into believing that this process had integrity and honesty. I no longer believe that it did.

Hopefully, all of us are wiser today than we were yesterday.

The Rev. Joseph F. DiPaolo is Lead Pastor at Lancaster First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Council. This article originally appeared via the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Outlook and is reprinted by permission. 

On the Further Postponement of General Conference

On the Further Postponement of General Conference

By Thomas Lambrecht –

Good News joins the many United Methodists who are deeply disappointed in the Commission on the General Conference’s decision to postpone/cancel the 2020 General Conference and instead hold the General Conference in May 2024. The reason given was “COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints,” relating to “the wait time for visas … in some countries.” That decision was announced in a press release yesterday.

We are grateful a decision has been made in order to end the uncertainty, but we profoundly disagree with that decision.

As reported by the Rev. Keith Boyette, president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, in a podcast, “the vote in the COGC was deeply divided and those who identified as theological conservatives and those who live outside the United States overwhelmingly voted in favor of General Conference being held as scheduled in 2022.” If that is the case, it seems that once again, some American members disregarded the input of the very people they claim to be trying to protect – international delegates. If the non-U.S. members of the Commission overwhelmingly believe that General Conference should go forward, and that non-U.S. delegates could safely and effectively participate, why would the institutionalist majority on the Commission block the conference from being held?

It appears as if a majority on the Commission focused more on what the church cannot do than on what the church can do. Good News and our Renewal and Reform partners (Wesleyan Covenant Association, Confessing Movement, and UM Action), working with the Africa Initiative, did everything possible to assure that a safe and fair General Conference could take place. We enabled non-U.S. delegates to receive freely accessible Covid vaccines so they could gain entry into the U.S. for the conference. We were working with contacts in Congress and the State Department to assure that non-U.S. delegates could get interviews to obtain their visas for travel. We were willing to provide Covid testing for non-U.S. delegates, if needed, so those delegates could get on an airplane to come to the U.S.

To concerned observers, it appeared as though the Commission and its staff did very little to ensure that non-U.S. delegates could participate. Boyette reports in the same podcast that cancellation of General Conference in Minneapolis could cost as much as $3 million. Yet the Commission was unwilling to spend money to ensure delegates could obtain vaccines, nor did the Commission appear to be willing to take extraordinary steps to assist delegates to obtain visas. Then, the Commission turned around and used the perceived inability of non-U.S. delegates to participate as the reason for cancelling the conference. (It is interesting to note that only two days before their meeting the Commission emailed all General Conference delegates inquiring about their vaccination status. This after Commission leaders publicly criticized efforts to vaccinate non-U.S. delegates. Such behavior gives the appearance of attempts to cover for their own inaction, rather than legitimately gain information, especially since an email with a 24-hour deadline for response meant that many African and Filipino delegates would not be able to respond to the email survey.)

The health and safety of delegates and their ability to participate is of high importance. However, no activity is completely risk-free. According to the science, vaccination provides substantial protection against severe illness and death. Delegates with underlying health conditions and feeling unsafe to travel could excuse themselves in favor of an alternate. There are delegates at every General Conference who are unable to obtain visas to attend. Alternates can often obtain those visas and participate in their place. In 2019, there were more than 30 empty seats due to visa issues. This is not a new problem, and workarounds have been successful in the past.

The inability of United Methodist leaders to do what it takes to hold a General Conference demonstrates once again the dysfunction and incompetence of the church’s governing structure. This is especially true when tens of thousands of people are gathering across the country for sporting events, concerts, international trade shows, international conventions (including United Methodist Women), and even the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo!

Many observers are left wondering if the motivation for continuing to resist holding General Conference was to defeat the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation and make separation more difficult and costly for churches. The information cited above about the Commission’s inaction, as well as our previous experience with duplicitous institutional leaders, gives us reason to believe that elements of this decision were made in bad faith. Those who control the levers of church power do not represent the majority of the church, yet they continue to believe they know best how the church ought to function, and they do not hesitate to impose their plans onto the church.

The United Methodist Church has once again shown itself to be no longer capable of governing itself. For example, bishops and annual conferences are able to disregard the actions of General Conference and the decisions of Judicial Council. Furthermore, bishops are unaccountable to the larger church. Again, we have been repeatedly told that jurisdictional and central conferences could not meet to elect new bishops and advance the work of the church through the general agencies. Now, the one body authorized to speak for the whole church and potentially resolve the crisis of division is not permitted to meet.

Therefore, Good News wholeheartedly supports the launching of the Global Methodist Church, effective May 1, 2022, as announced by the Transitional Leadership Council. We believe now is the time for annual conferences and local churches to move forward into a new reality, free of the burdens of conflict and liberated to focus solely on the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world through the Holy Spirit.

With the launch of the GM Church, the way is now open for local churches and annual conferences to align with the GM Church via ¶ 2548.2 in the Book of Discipline, allowing transfer into “another evangelical denomination,” rather than the ¶ 2553 Disaffiliation process. The parameters of such transfer are determined by each annual conference. Bishops and annual conferences can implement the principles of the Protocol on an individual basis. ¶ 2548.2 does not require payment of extra apportionments or the value of church property in order to transfer with buildings and assets. It allows pension liabilities to be transferred to the local church or to the other evangelical denomination. It allows local churches to choose whether their vote to transfer to the new denomination requires a simple majority or two-thirds vote. All that is required is the approval of the bishop, cabinet, district board of building and location, and the annual conference.

We are appealing to bishops and cabinets of good will to work cooperatively with local churches to allow for a peaceful and reasonable transfer to the Global Methodist Church, based on the principles of the Protocol.

Bishops and annual conferences have a choice. They can respond to this difficult time with a heart of peace (which they have repeatedly extolled) and allow for an amicable separation of congregations that desire to transfer by following as much as possible the principles of the Protocol. Or they can take a punitive approach and demand heavy payments from churches seeking to transfer. A vindictive spirit does not serve the church or its witness for Jesus Christ well. We had hoped to demonstrate to the world that it is possible to resolve deeply felt differences in a gracious and amicable way. Though continued delay calls the eventual passage of the Protocol into doubt, we call upon bishops and annual conferences to adopt a gracious attitude that can pave the way for future reconciliation, rather than seeking to extract heavy penalties or coerce churches into remaining United Methodist.

Many churches will move forward immediately to withdraw from the UM Church and align with the Global Methodist Church. Others will explore their options and educate their members before making a decision. Many other churches will feel trapped in a hostile annual conference that refuses gracious departure. Many will find The United Methodist Church no longer deserving of financial support, while others will resort to the necessity of filing lawsuits to challenge the Trust Clause. All of this rancor could have been avoided, had our leaders worked to support an amicable solution that helped the church move forward in a healthy way. Instead, they chose to perpetuate conflict.

We foresee different waves of churches joining the Global Methodist Church, as conditions change and local churches and annual conferences make decisions at different times. Good News will support churches seeking to realign with the GM Church, as well as traditionalist churches that remain in The UM Church. In both denominations, we will continue to advocate for Scriptural Christianity, as we have for 55 years.

While the pathway before us is not the one we would have chosen, it is the pathway we have been given. And we know that the Lord is with us on this journey into a new, more faithful future. With his guidance, and empowered by his Spirit, we will walk this pathway together with you, seeking always to become the church that God intends us to be.

Thomas Lambrect is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. Photo: General Conference 2012 by Steve Beard. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Global Methodist Church Sets Official Launch Date

Global Methodist Church Sets Official Launch Date

Global Methodist Church

March 3, 2022

With humility, hope and joy, a 17 member body of theologically conservative Methodist clergy and laity, known as the Transitional Leadership Council, is pleased to announce the Global Methodist Church will officially launch on May 1, 2022.

Supported by fervent prayers, faithful discernment, and a sure hope for the future, the Global Methodist Church is a Holy Spirit inspired movement committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly to the ends of the earth.

Thousands of Methodist clergy and laity from around the world have worked together for over three years to lay the groundwork for a new, theologically conservative Methodist denomination steeped in the great ecumenical and evangelical confessions of the Christian faith. They envision a church fired by a warm hearted, Wesleyan expression of that faith that is dedicated to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

“The Global Methodist Church will warmly welcome people eager to join others in fulfilling its mission,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, Chairman of the Transitional Leadership Council and President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. “We have heard the truth of Jesus Christ, experienced the forgiveness of his grace and love, and so bear witness to his transforming power. We long to take our place alongside brothers and sisters in the church universal who seek to live out their faith everyday so that others might come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”

After having worked for years to renew and reform The United Methodist Church, in late 2019, theological conservatives faithfully joined leading UM Church bishops, and leaders of centrist and progressive advocacy groups to hammer out an amicable and orderly plan to divide the UM denomination.

That plan, known as the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, rapidly gained the support of people across the UM connection, and it appeared headed for approval at the denomination’s May 2020 General Conference. Unfortunately, after two previous postponements, UM Church officials have announced that they are postponing the conference for a third time. Their inability to find ways to help international delegates gain access to Covid-19 vaccinations and secure U.S. entry visas led to the cancellation.

Consequently, the Protocol cannot be adopted this year, so faithful and patient United Methodists will not be afforded the opportunity to part ways with the UM Church according to the Protocol’s terms. Under its provisions, every theologically conservative local church and annual conference would be allowed to join the Global Methodist Church with clear title to all of their property and assets in perpetuity.

“Many United Methodists have grown impatient with a denomination clearly struggling to function effectively at the general church level,” said Boyette. “Theologically conservative local churches and annual conferences want to be free of divisive and destructive debates, and to have the freedom to move forward together. We are confident many existing congregations will join the new Global Methodist Church in waves over the next few years, and new church plants will sprout up as faithful members exit the UM Church and coalesce into new congregations.”

It is anticipated that some theologically conservative local churches will find annual conferences willing to negotiate fair and just exit provisions, while others will unfortunately face obstacles placed in their paths. The Transitional Leadership Council decided it was time to launch the Global Methodist Church, so those who can leave early will have a place to land, to begin building and growing, and making room for others to join later.

Boyette said, “For theologically conservative local churches deciding to remain in the UM Church for a time, we are confident Africa Initiative, Good News, the Confessing Movement, UMAction, and the Wesleyan Covenant Association will continue to vociferously advocate for the ultimate passage of the Protocol. Every theologically conservative local congregation and annual conference should have the right to join the Global Methodist Church with all of their property and assets intact.”

Over the past two years the Transitional Leadership Council has met on almost a weekly basis to create a Global Methodist Church in formation. Informed by the work of the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Council, Legislative Assembly, and dozens of task force teams that prepared white papers covering a host of issues, the members prepared a Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline. The book will govern the church during a transitional period prior to a convening General Conference to be held in the next 12 to 18 months. The Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline and much of the Transitional Leadership Council’s work can be found on the new church’s website and in Crossroads, the weekly e-newsletter it publishes. Persons and churches interested in aligning with the Global Methodist Church may express their interest through the new church’s website.

“As we embark on this great venture, we know we will stumble and fall at times,” said Boyette. “But with the great prophet Isaiah, we also firmly believe we will, in God’s good time, ‘run and not be weary,’ and ‘walk [in the way of the Lord] and not faint!’”