UMC break has been years in the making
The second-largest Protestant denomination in the world is on the precipice of a substantial split.
While issues including lack of accountability, abuse of power, and lack of local control will be cited as reasons driving the split, the issue at the heart of the divide is human sexuality.
That’s evidenced by the very title of the language that churches are using to disaffiliate: “Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality,” also known as paragraph 2553 in the denomination’s Book of Discipline.
From the text of the UMC Book of Discipline: “Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right… to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination of marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals… or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues….”
A “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” which would have split the church over this issue has been delayed multiple times.
Per the Religion News Service, that proposal would have allowed traditional congregations and conferences to leave the United Methodist Church “taking with them their properties and $25 million to form a new Methodist denomination. The post-separation United Methodist Church would meet later to repeal language barring LGBTQ United Methodists from ordination and marriage.”
An opinion piece from the Religion News Service describes the schism this way: “Progressives slow-pedaled the disaffiliation process… and sandbagged the Protocol, which would have, among other things, given $25 million in seed money to the new, conservative Global Methodist Church. In its stead, they offer disaffiliation terms that traditionalists view as unfavorable.”
As the delay lengthened, a spin-off group of United Methodists formed a new denomination earlier this year — the Global Methodist Church.
That denomination was born back in May and is classified as “theologically conservative” by the Religion News Service.
According to an article from Christianity Today, the new denomination “plans to uphold traditional, conservative Wesleyan theology but run on a lighter, leaner infrastructure that emphasizes grassroots accountability and ministry connections.”
“The Global Methodist Church will have regional annual conferences, but they will play a supporting role for the local church rather than serving as the basic unit of ministry, as they do in the UMC. The GMC won’t have programs like denominational seminaries or summer camps to fund.”
Part of the benefit to the switch outlined in that article is the preservation of additional funds for local ministry rather than bureaucracy.
Some of the changes to the Book of Discipline for the Global Methodists, per that article, “defines term limits for bishops, sets financial contributions based on church budget, forbids trust clauses and creates an accountability system in which bishops report to clergy and laypeople, not just other bishops,” all the while avoiding existing “bloated institutional structures.”