By Keith Boyette —
The process of church disaffiliation has completed its second wave, with churches disaffiliating through special sessions of their annual conferences in the fall. This piecemeal process of disaffiliation is not what we had hoped for when I joined other traditionalist, centrist, and progressive leaders to announce the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation agreement three years ago. If General Conference had met in 2020 or even in 2022, there would have been a uniform process for disaffiliation that would have allowed annual conferences and local churches to make an informed, prayerful, conscience-driven decision on where their congregation could best serve the Kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, we have a dysfunctional situation that is causing increased conflict and power plays to block disaffiliation in some places. Despite the challenges, over 2,000 churches have already disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church (UM Church) and many more are in the process to do so during this year.
Now that two waves of disaffiliation have been completed, people wonder what progress the Global Methodist Church is making in its formation.
The GM Church began operations on May 1, 2022. In its brief life, it has welcomed more than 1,200 persons as clergy members and officially welcomed 1,100 local churches that applied to align with it. The GM Church is already larger than the Congregational Methodist and Free Methodist Churches and should soon pass the Wesleyan Church in size. These clergy and churches are from Angola, Bulgaria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Panama, the Philippines, Slovakia, and the United States.
And hundreds of additional clergy and local churches are on the cusp of completing the process of disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church in order to align with the GM Church. Also, more than 50 new GM congregations have been launched globally with more being added each month. And the truth is, many more would have already joined the GM Church, or be well on the way to doing so, were it not for the obstacles UM Church bishops and conferences have placed in their way.
The GM Church’s primary focus is on its mission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. It is a Church that intentionally empowers local congregations to have maximum discretion in the way they organize and deploy resources for ministry. The denomination maintains a small institutional footprint to ensure local churches have the resources to support the ministry to which they are called. The GM Church exists to empower local churches; to serve, not to be served.
Considerable time has been devoted to organizing for ministry in the various regions of the world. The GM Church currently has nine provisional annual conferences and districts around the world. These conferences and districts have presidents pro tempore and presiding elders appointed to serve. Some have already held convening conferences. Others are holding such conferences soon. It also has ten transitional conference advisory teams preparing for the launch of additional provisional conferences and districts in the coming months with more being organized monthly.
The process of organizing the church internationally involves registering the GM Church with the government of each country. It has completed this process in Bulgaria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, and Slovakia. Registration is underway in a number of other countries around the world. Ultimately, the GM Church will be registered in nearly all of the countries of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The denomination is also in discussions with non-UM clergy and churches around the world, many of whom are steeped in Methodist heritage and traditions. For them, the GM Church offers an opportunity to join a new, vibrant movement grounded in the warm hearted Wesleyan expression of the Christian faith.
Navigating such a dynamic environment requires exceptional sensitivity to, and dependence on, the work of the Holy Spirit. The GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council (TLC) is diverse, globally representative, and composed of exceptional leaders. Recently, Bishops Mark Webb and Scott Jones have joined the TLC, along with new members Rev. Arturo Cadar (Eastern Texas, Deacon), Rev. Bartolomeu Dias Sapalo (Angola, Elder), Rev. Dr. David Watson (Allegheny West, Elder), and Rev. Bazel Yoila Yayuba (Nigeria, Elder). The TLC will continue to guide the GM Church through its critical transitional period, even as it joyfully looks forward to the new denomination’s convening General Conference.
Of course, starting a new denomination requires significant financial resources. Thanks to hundreds of gifts from faithful Methodists from all around the world, at its inception, the GM Church received over $1 million as a substantial seed money grant from the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Next Methodism Fund, which had been specifically raised for that purpose. In addition to this gift, individuals, local churches, and other entities have continued to generously support the Church in its transitional season. Through December 31, 2022, it has received $210,000 in direct contributions, enabling it to fulfill its calling in its early days.
As local churches join the denomination, they are now supporting the ministries of their provisional annual conferences and the general church through connectional funding. The TLC, when requested, has granted relief from connectional funding for congregations that have incurred substantial financial burdens as part of withdrawing from the UM Church.
The GM Church is also equipping and encouraging congregations to fulfill its calling to be a global missional partner with Christian movements around the world. It is a platinum sponsor of the Beyond These Walls conference that will be held at The Woodlands (TX) Methodist Church from April 27-29, 2023. It will gather Christian leaders from around the world, many of whom will be GMC clergy and laity, and will challenge us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all people.
In this space, I can only focus on a few highlights, but all the people of the GM Church celebrate the way in which God is at work in our midst. We have much for which we give thanks. We have only just begun. We will keep our focus primarily upon our mission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly. God expects great things from us. By God’s Spirit, we strive to accomplish great things for God, all so that Jesus will be glorified.
The Rev. Keith Boyette is the Transitional Connectional Officer of the Global Methodist Church, its chief executive and administrative officer. A version of this article appeared in the GM Church’s Outlook (globalmethodist.org).