Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

By Thomas Lambrecht –

​​​​​The Rev. Jay Therrell, president of the Florida regional chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, surrendered his credentials as an ordained elder on July 8. He did so because of requirements that had been placed upon him by the conference board of ordained ministry that were inconsistent with the Book of Discipline and violated the policies of the Florida WCA. (Therrell was on leave of absence in order to serve as the Florida WCA president.)

Therrell gives a complete account of how the situation came to this point in a recent blog. The blog includes copies of the board of ordained ministry’s requirement letter and Therrell’s response to Bishop Ken Carter.

Essentially, both the bishop and the board of ordained ministry had been working over the past year to gain access to the names of the churches and leaders with whom Therrell had been in conversation about the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation and the options available to churches under the Protocol. It became apparent that Florida UM leaders wanted to monitor the content that Therrell was sharing with the churches and leaders.

In addition, pastors were fearful that they could be punished for allowing information to be shared and options discussed in their local churches. Licensed local pastors (unordained clergy) are particularly vulnerable, since a bishop can withdraw their appointments at any time for any reason, and district committees on ordained ministry can decline to renew their license for ministry at any time and for any reason.

As we have seen in other annual conferences, when licensed local pastors are proactive in sharing information with their congregations, conference officials sometimes remove them summarily from ministry. Basically, they are fired for doing what good pastors do in helping their churches stay informed and be proactive in planning for the future. We have also seen even ordained traditional clergy moved to a new appointment simply for sharing information with their congregations.

The board of the Florida WCA chapter had determined to protect the identity of those churches and leaders who consulted with Therrell. They did this to protect vulnerable clergy from being fired and to allow churches to explore options and receive information without the threat of the annual conference closing their church (something that has happened in other annual conferences).

Despite repeated requests over a year’s time from the bishop and district superintendents for this sensitive information, both Therrell and the Florida WCA board refused to disclose it. In fact, the attempt to muzzle Therrell began before he even became president of the Florida chapter. Therrell was forced to resign from the Florida cabinet in 2020 because the bishop wanted to forbid him from working on helping to create what became known as the Global Methodist Church in Florida. At the time of his resignation, Therrell was asked to sign a covenant restricting his ability to speak with other clergy or laity about a proposed new traditionalist denomination. Therrell declined.

The Ultimatum

In June of this year, the Florida board of ordained ministry gave Therrell an ultimatum: report the required sensitive information or (it was implied) run the risk of having charges filed against him for disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. The board imposed three requirements:

1. Provide a “full and complete list of all ministerial activities performed while on leave… [including] the dates and locations for all past and henceforth meetings with United Methodist clergy and laity,” whether on church-owned or non-church-owned property.

2. Obtain permission from the district superintendent for any meeting to be held with UM clergy or laity as president of the Florida WCA.

3. Video record all gatherings with Florida UM clergy and laity, with the recording to be given to the district superintendent and the board of ordained ministry.

These requirements would have ended Therrell’s ability to serve in the role of Florida WCA president because all of the district superintendents would have denied permission for Therrell to meet with anyone. The requirements would have exposed vulnerable clergy and congregations to potential punitive action by the Florida bishop and cabinet and would have had a chilling effect on the ability of Florida UM churches to gain information and consider options in light of the Protocol.

The board of ordained ministry’s rationale from the Discipline for these requirements was that they constitute “ministerial activities” that must be reported to the board. Meeting with clergy and laity to inform them about the Protocol was considered “giving guidance, training, and equipping to laity,” which is a ministerial activity. Raising funds was also considered a ministerial activity. Because Therrell was on personal leave of absence in order to serve as the Florida WCA president, the Discipline prohibits him from conducting any ministerial activities outside of the local church where he holds membership, unless the bishop or district superintendent gives permission.

Through a Pharisaical application of the provisions of the Discipline, the board of ordained ministry prohibited Therrell from serving as Florida WCA president while also being an ordained clergy. Activities that any layperson could do – holding informational meetings, writing articles, and raising funds – suddenly became impossible for Therrell to do as an ordained elder. That left him no choice but to surrender his ordination credentials in order to continue serving in the position to which he believed God had called him.


Florida’s attempts to muzzle Therrell are unprecedented. No other district superintendent coming off the cabinet and going on personal leave was prohibited from meeting with clergy and laity in the conference. No other person on leave of absence was required to report all meetings held with clergy and laity, much less video record them and give those recordings to the cabinet and board of ordained ministry.

According to Therrell, the same executive committee of the board of ordained ministry that imposed these outrageous requirements on Therrell allowed an ordained elder who is a lesbian married to another woman to return from leave of absence and be transferred to a conference in the Western Jurisdiction, where she would not face charges under the Discipline. This was done in secret without the involvement of the full board of ordained ministry, and the required interview with the board was even waived. Failure to file a complaint for such a clear violation of the Discipline, while holding Therrell to a standard not even the Discipline envisions, smacks of a double standard. As Therrell says in his letter to Bishop Carter, “If an elder is progressive and violating the Discipline, they are given great latitude. If an elder is a traditionalist and conducting lawful activities that promote the current official stance of The United Methodist Church, they are harassed endlessly.”

Throughout his involvement on the Commission on a Way Forward and since the 2019 General Conference, Bishop Carter has promoted the idea that we should interact with each other with a heart of peace, rather than a heart of war. Unfortunately, with its continued harassment and opposition to Therrell, the Florida conference leadership, including Bishop Carter, has not exhibited a heart of peace. Punitive actions, the attempt to prohibit information sharing, striving to control the messaging, all demonstrate a win-lose attitude that only heightens conflict. The motivation of Florida UM leaders, like those in some other annual conferences, seems to be to use any and every strategy to keep as many churches as possible from joining the proposed new Global Methodist Church. The power and agency of laity is being disregarded and their ability to choose to meet with persons to learn about the new Global Methodist Church is being compromised.

The way forward for The United Methodist Church is not to be found in heightened confrontation and conflict. Instead, it is to be found in mutual respect, transparent leadership, and facilitating individual congregational and membership choice. The whole point of the Protocol is to provide a fair and amicable way for United Methodists to decide whether they want to continue being part of a Methodist church that is evolving away from Scriptural Christianity and toward cultural affirmation, or whether they want to be part of a Methodist church that maintains the bedrock doctrines of the Christian faith and a traditional understanding of marriage and sexuality.

Therrell can continue his role as Florida WCA president, working for a new traditionalist Methodist church, now without the hindrance and harassment of Florida conference leaders. When the Global Methodist Church forms, he will be able to receive ordination in that new denomination and serve in pastoral leadership. Still, his costly stand for integrity and faithfulness to the Gospel is an example for all of us to follow. We salute all such clergy, some of whom have lost their livelihoods and others forced through the upheaval of an unplanned (and sometimes punitive) move to a new church.

There are definitely some parts of the church where the theological conflict is causing casualties. We hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail. Such internecine warfare does not serve the Kingdom of God or the mission of the church. Power plays and punishment for theological differences do not build a healthy church. These situations simply demonstrate yet again how necessary the Protocoland separation really are. We continue to urge its support by all fair-minded General Conference delegates.

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

Florida WCA President Surrenders Credentials over Extreme Requirements

The Global Methodist Church

By Walter Fenton –

The Transitional Leadership Council, a 17 member team of theologically conservative Methodists, has released information on the Global Methodist Church.

The council said the new church will officially come into existence when a United Methodist General Conference adopts the implementing legislation for the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Alternatively, if it becomes apparent that the leading bishops, centrists, and progressives who covenanted to support the Protocol no longer do so, then the council will consider bringing the new church into existence without delay. Local United Methodist churches, annual conferences, and central conferences will then be able to join the new denomination.

“The primary mission of the Global Methodist Church will be to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, who serves as chairman of the Transitional Leadership Council. “Over the past year the council members, and hundreds of people who have informed their work, have faithfully and thoughtfully arrived at this point. They are happy to share with others a wealth of information about a church they believe will be steeped in the life giving confessions of the Christian faith.”

With the announcement of the new church the council authorized the release of a comprehensive and detailed website. It includes the new church’s mission statement, vision, information about its name and logo, a frequently asked questions section, and downloadable versions of the church’s Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline in English, French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. The website clearly notes that “the Global Methodist Church is in formation” and will officially launch when the Protocol is approved, or if it becomes apparent that an amicable and orderly separation no longer has the support of a broad coalition of leading bishops, centrists, progressives, and traditionalists. In the case of the latter, the Transitional Leadership Council will consider bringing the new church into existence without delay.

Philippe Adjobi.

“It was a great honor to participate in such exhilarating work,” said the Rev. Philippe Adjobi, a member of the Transitional Leadership Council, a district superintendent in the Cote d’Ivoire Annual Conference and a General Conference delegate. “I believe the Global Methodist Church will fulfill the expectations and aspirations of local churches throughout Africa. They will appreciate focusing on what is essential: testifying to Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Adjobi and the names of the other 16 members of the council are listed on the Global Methodist Church’s website. They are theologically conservative women and men who come from Africa, Eurasia, the Philippines, and the United States. The list includes laity, clergy and bishops who have been integrally involved in the UM Church for years, and who believe an amicable and orderly separation is the best way forward for a denomination deeply divided and beset by significant challenges.

Theologically conservative United Methodists have made no secret of their efforts to form a new church. In late 2018, the Wesleyan Covenant Association created a Next Steps Working Group to begin drafting its own “Book of Doctrines and Discipline” outlining essential theological confessions and governing structures for a new church’s consideration. It did so in light of the special called 2019 General Conference, where delegates once again addressed issues that have deeply divided the UM Church for decades. The special conference was called to hopefully resolve differences, but many believed it could just as easily reveal the necessity of separation.

The special General Conference proved to be as contentious and divisive as many people anticipated when a Traditional Plan reaffirming the UM Church’s sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and ordination standards was approved. Progressive and centrist United Methodists in the U.S. denounced the General Conference’s actions and resolved to defy the global body vested with the sole power to speak authoritatively for the UM Church.

Within weeks, small groups of centrist, progressive, and traditionalist UM Church leaders, quietly and often haltingly began having conversations about plans for dividing the denomination. A group convened by the late Bishop John Yambasu of Sierre Leone and guided by the world renown mediator Kenneth Feinberg hammered out the Protocol and its implementing legislation. The 16 member team included leading UM bishops and representatives from the major advocacy groups representing centrists, progressives, and conservatives.

The Protocol team released its plan in early January 2020 and it quickly gained the sometimes hopeful and sometimes grudging support of United Methodists around the world. It appeared headed for likely passage at the denomination’s May 2020 General Conference.

In light of the Protocol a group of theologically conservative UM Church leaders met in Atlanta, Georgia, the first week of March 2020. The group included several traditionalist bishops, evangelical advocacy group leaders, and other clergy and laity who identified as theologically conservative. Over the course of three days the leaders agreed to an expansive vision for a new Methodist church, and then nominated the members of the Transitional Leadership Council, assigning them the task of forming the new church.

Dr. Bob Hayes.

“I am convinced the Global Methodist Church will be a vibrant, vital expression of Methodism in terms of its teachings and ethics,” said Dr. Bob Hayes, a Transitional Leadership Council member and Bishop in Residence at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas. “As a fourth generation Methodist I am excited by a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit where I see God doing a new thing! God is creating a church rooted in Scripture and the love of Jesus, and he is calling us to participate with him. We’re not there just yet, but given our vision, our hope, and our perseverance, I’m confident we’ll get there!”

At the time of the Transitional Leadership Council’s formation, no one knew the Covid-19 pandemic would result in the postponement of the UM Church’s 2020 General Conference. Like many other UM Church leaders, the traditionalists who met in Atlanta anticipated the passage of the Protocol in May of last year and intended for the Transitional Leadership Council to form the new church and oversee it until it could hold a convening General Conference.

Despite the postponement of an in-person General Conference, the Transitional Leadership Council has been meeting almost weekly since March 2020. As is evident in its Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline, the council has approved the Global Methodist Church’s core confessions of faith, hammered out a transitional governing structure, and adopted the new church’s name and logo. The council has emphasized fidelity to the historic teaching of the Christian faith, and a desire to be a truly global church.

Rev. Kevin Ryoo.

“I believe a good number of ethnic congregations will want to align with the Global Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Kevin Ryoo, a council member and an elder in the Dakotas Annual Conference. “They long for a church which honors the Bible, stays within the traditional mission of Methodism, and keeps local church ministry as a first priority. I know Korean Methodist congregations have a strong passion for evangelism and mission.”

A number of Korean UM pastors reached out to the Wesleyan Covenant Association not long after the association’s formation and have offered their insights and ideas for what a new theologically conservative church might look like.

Boyette, who is the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, acknowledged that while the association has played a role in preparing for the new church, many other traditionalist leaders have been critical in the formation of the Global Methodist Church.

Leah Hidde Gregory.

“Traditionalists do not march in lock-step,” said the Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde Gregory, a Transitional Leadership Council member and a district superintendent in the Central Texas Annual Conference. “Some traditionalists have been wary of the WCA, thinking it was moving too fast and others believing it was moving too slow. It took a few meetings before I realized there were only three people from the WCA leadership on our council. It became obvious to me that the group who nominated us wanted to make sure all people who regard themselves as traditionalist, orthodox, conservative, or evangelical were represented on the Transitional Leadership Council.”

Hidde Gregory also noted the misinformation that has swirled around the work of forming a new traditionalist church. “It’s unfortunate that some people have falsely claimed we are opposed to the full inclusion of women as clergy in a new church; nothing could be further from the truth. We make very clear the new church will be fully open to women, and to all ethnicities and races.”

In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its website the new church states, “Women, like men, will be called to serve in the Global Methodist Church and will be entitled to serve at all levels.” The section also says, “As a truly global church the denomination will be ethnically and racially diverse and will insist on the equal treatment of all the church’s members.”

Council members believe that if the Protocol’s implementing legislation is adopted, thousands of local churches and clergy in Africa, Eurasia, the Philippines, and the U.S. will want to join the Global Methodist Church. It is widely recognized that clergy and laity in Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia, and in parts of the Philippines are more theologically conservative than their counterparts in the U.S. Although, even in the U.S., a significant percentage of laity identify as theologically conservative, and are part of small, midsize, and large traditionalist local churches.

Cara Nicklas.

“I believe Methodism is on the cusp of another Great Awakening,” said Transitional Leadership Council member Cara Nicklas, an attorney and General Conference delegate from the Oklahoma Annual Conference. “The Global Methodist Church is the vehicle by which that will happen because we value a connectional, global church with doctrine and discipline that is not guided by our U.S. culture but is simply focused on bringing people into a deep and intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The Transitional Leadership Council will continue to prepare for the official launch of the Global Methodist Church. It meets on almost a weekly basis and regularly receives extensive reports from task force groups dealing with everything from the necessity of a local church’s board of trustees to theological statements regarding the sacraments of baptism and holy communion.

“True to our roots, we’re a patient and methodical people,” said Boyette. “We want to do our very best to help theologically conservative local churches, laity and pastors navigate the transitional period as smoothly as possible. And then we look forward to the Global Methodist Church’s convening General Conference where we hope the duly elected delegates will find what we have done to be helpful. It will be their great task and responsibility to discern God’s will and so help all its local churches and people live fully into the body of Christ.”

To learn more about the Global Methodist Church, click HERE.

The Rev. Walter Fenton is Vice President for Strategic Engagement for the Wesleyan Covenant Association and is an elder in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference.