As many of you may or may not know, the United Methodist Church has been in a schism for the past few years. I think it’s instructive to look at what’s happening and try to take some of the larger lessons from it. Before we get started, let’s just get out of the way that I am not a United Methodist or a Methodist of any sort. I am a Baptist who married a Methodist whose home church recently went through the disaffiliation process and went from a United Methodist Church to a Global Methodist Church. I am writing these thoughts out as somebody who had a front row seat to the show, so you will have to excuse me if I don’t get some of the Methodist jargon right.
How Did We Get Here?
For years the progressive wing of the UMC has been pushing for abortion, homosexual marriage, and the de-legitimization of the Scripture. But having watched what has happened, I can tell you exactly what happened and the heresy is a secondary concern. What has damaged the UMC beyond recovery is the ordination of clergy who had absolutely no intention of keeping their vows. Every UMC minister who has tolerated adultery, who has flown a gay pride flag, or condoned any other sexual immorality that is forbidden in the UMC book of discipline has explicitly broken their vows. And any UMC Bishop that was aware of Ministers in their area of authority breaking their vows in a such a way and failing to remove and otherwise discipline them have broken their vows. And any UMC minister who sat through an ordination service where they knew – THEY KNEW – that the prospective ordinates had no intention at all of of keeping their vows. It was every conservative and traditionalist minister who didn’t object to a progressive candidate that they knew was standing before their conference and lying about respecting the stated beliefs of the UMC expressed through their book of discipline who allowed this to happen. Ultimately, these heretics came to dominate the UMC council of bishops and ensured that anybody disregarding parts of the Methodist rules they didn’t like wouldn’t be subject to the discipline. And under the organizing structure of the UMC, if the Bishops didn’t act, there was no way to enforce the rules.
A Bit of Background
In 2019 the UMC held a special conference on the issue of Human Sexuality. The Council of Bishops had a preferred plan that was endorsed by every UMC Seminary that they called the One Church Plan. The One Church Plan would have changed the Methodist Discipline to allow each church to do whatever they wanted in regards to gay marriage, etc. The conservatives in the UMC (who tend to prefer to be called Traditionalists to avoid being conflated with the conservative political movement) floated their own plan, the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan won on the first vote with heavy support from the African delegates. It reinforced the language in the UMC Book of Discipline that homosexual conduct was incompatible with Christian teaching and added enforcement mechanisms against Bishops and clergy who continued to defy the official written teaching of the Church. The Traditional plan also included a provision for churches who didn’t like the teaching of the UMC to leave the denomination by the end of 2023 provided they pay 2 years of “apportionments” (which are basically the dues each UMC church pays to the denomination – calculated by a formula based on the money they bring in via their tithing and fundraising) and certain liabilities regarding the retirement and health benefits the UMC owed the pastors that had served at the church that was leaving. Traditionalists hoped that the Progressives would take the olive branch and just leave the UMC and go do what they wanted. This was supposed to be followed up in 2020 at their regularly scheduled General Conference with the new rules for enforcement. As we are all too familiar with by now, because of Covid, the 2020 General Conference never happened.
The Progressives were shocked that they lost. They vowed to refuse to leave. They vowed to defy the 2019 decision. And the worthless Bishops who have the audacity to claim to represent Christ and His Church did nothing. But 2020 was coming and the Traditionalists were preparing to start engaging in some very serious discipline. But then 2020 didn’t come. Nor did 2021. The Progressives had found a way to stall enforcement: We can’t meet because of Covid (cough, cough, cough).
Finally, the Traditionalists had had enough. With the 2024 deadline to leave the UMC under the Traditional Plan coming up fast, they decided if they couldn’t clean up the UMC they would be the ones to leave. They set up a new organization – The Global Methodist Church – and Traditionalist churches started disaffiliating. At first, it was a trickle. The Progressives who had infested anything laughed. Then 2023 came. Now it was a flood. Once again the Progressives were absolutely shocked at the number of people who had no interest in their “enlightened” leadership. In more conservative conferences, things went mostly smoothly. Progressives called those who wanted to leave racist, among other things. In more liberal conferences, the Bishops abused the process to make it almost impossible for churches to leave. In some instances, churches were seized under the UMC Trust Clause (where the denomination actually owns the church property, not the congregation) on the edge of the vote to enter “discernment” (the process where they decide rather or not to disaffiliate). In Georgia, the Bishop simply refused to allow a vote on whether or not to let the churches depart. This shameful behavior of petty tyranny and hateful name calling was, unfortunately, just par for the course of those who claimed to be Brothers in Christ. But by their works you shall know them, and the Progressives certainly have revealed themselves.
Whereas the Progressives engaged in a campaign of petty tyranny, the bad behavior out of the Traditionalist camp mostly came out of the laity not understanding how the UMC itself was organized as a denomination. It came as a shock to quite a few that they didn’t actually own their church buildings – that the UMC had the right (and in some cases a responsibility) to shut down churches, and that the secular courts were loath to intervene in what was considered an internal church matter. To complicate things, to disaffiliate a church had to have a 2/3 majority of the voting members present at the meeting vote to leave. So a church that had 51% vote to leave didn’t get to leave. A church that had a 60% supermajority did not get to leave. There were churches that fell short by one vote who wound up trapped. These people were faced with the prospect of losing a church building that had come to be a special place for them or abandoning the building to stay true to their convictions and leaving the UMC. And in some cases did not take it well.
Lesson 1. Moderates Always Shoot Right
The UMC Progressives have always been a minority. But they’ve been allowed to destroy a once proud denomination because the moderates were scared of being called racist. Or homophobic. Or whatever the buzzword of the week is. Instead of telling the Progressives to knock it off and abide by the book of discipline they told the Traditionalists why can’t you guys just get along and live and let live? Basically, in a denomination where the Traditionalists and the Progressives could agree on nothing, the moderates boldly capitulated every step of the way, abandoning the denomination’s fealty to the Scripture and their own Book of Discipline along the way. Proudly sticking their heads in the sand – after all THEIR church wasn’t like those kooky Progressives. And THEIR church was so much more accepting than those bigoted right wingers. But in the end, they may as well have just decked their halls with gay pride flags and invited a drag queen in to give the children’s moment.
Lesson 2. Guard Your Leadership
The downfall of the UMC didn’t happen overnight. It happened because over many years people who were not fit to serve as clergy were permitted to do so. And the entire organization is responsible. The clergy who sat through ordination services and permitted those who had no love for the Scripture or the UMC to be ordained into the UMC clergy are to blame. It might be unpleasant, and the moderates will always complain that you’re being mean, but you have to aggressively police who you allow into leadership.
Lesson 3. Enforce Your Rules
This one is especially important for the Global Methodists going forward, but it’s a good one for everybody to follow. Enforce your rules. The Progressives act like homosexual activity is the only thing the Bible calls out as sin. But it’s not. Adultery and sex outside of marriage are big ones that the church has turned a blind eye too far too often. Things like covetousness, usury, and theft are all too often ignored. The Church must actually follow the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.
Lesson 4. Understand Where Your Authority Comes From
The Progressives who wish to throw out parts of Scripture they don’t like are usurping the authority of the Apostles appointed by Christ Himself and recognized by The Church. When Paul wrote condemning homosexual activity, he was writing as an Apostle of Christ. When some progressive nincompoop attempts to argue that pieces of those writing were inspired and some pieces weren’t, they are denying the authority of the Apostle Paul and should be shown the door for their heresy.
Where Does the UMC Go From Here?
My guess is that the UMC is going to significantly change the UMC Book of Discipline in the 2024 General Conference. They will continue to bleed off members until they resort to taking money from the many left wing political action groups, and will then just be a skinsuit for the latter. They will claim that because UMC Ministers bless their activities that they are not enemies of the Church. It might take 10 years, but the UMC is going to soon be a zombie skinsuit for the political left. What happened to the UMC is a real life example of Vox Day’s books SJW’s Always Lie, SJW’s Always Double Down, and Corporate Cancer.
In the past, the Wesleyans had a huge impact on American culture and society. Then as a result of the cultural revolution in the 1960’s they lost their way. The Global Methodists have set their denomination up with the problems of the UMC on their mind. And hopefully they will bring some of that original Wesleyan fervor back to the culture. Because the UMC has made such a big deal of homosexuality, the GMC is going to have to be particularly aggressive when it comes to punishing acts of adultery and other sexual sins. They will need to be completely above reproach. It’s a tall order, but it’s doable.
The Global Methodist Church also needs to think long and hard about who to permit to join after the UMC holds their 2024 General Conference. The moderates who enabled the Progressive rot in the UMC should not be permitted to become clergy in the GMC. Anybody who thought the Traditionalists were overreacting but couldn’t ever bother even speaking a harsh word for the malfeasance of the Progressives should never, ever be permitted a leadership role in the new denomination.
It is an exciting time for the Global Methodists. Embrace the Holy Spirit and do your best to do what He wills, and huge things will happen.