(Note: This article is my personal perspective as the shepherd of our local church.)
Five years ago, I never dreamed I would be writing an article like this one. As a child growing up in the late sixties, my parents took me to the local Methodist church in Daleville, Pennsylvania. A small town with a big heart. I sang in the choir and learned about having a relationship with Jesus. I learned of the importance of the Bible as God’s revelation and directional map for our lives. The Methodist denomination I was raised in and the United Brethren denomination merged in 1969 to form the United Methodist Church. Fast forward twenty-five years – I prepared for ministry as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and began serving in the local church. As I stepped up with my group at Annual Conference to be welcomed as an elder, the bishop and other elders laid hands on me and I was asked historical questions dating back hundreds of years.
Since 1784, when John Wesley assembled it, there has been a Book of Discipline that has provided the polity and practices for Methodists. This book is grounded in scripture. This is an excerpt from the 2016 version; (1) “The General Book of Discipline reflects our Wesleyan way of serving Christ through doctrine and disciplined Christian life. We are a worldwide denomination united by doctrine, discipline, and mission through our connectional covenant.” At my ordination, I was asked: (2) “To administer the provisions of the Discipline. ”Administer means to “manage and be responsible for the running” of the local church. The previous statement is a central reason as to why I’m writing this article, The Tale of Two Denominations. The United Methodist denomination is not “united” today as we read in the last paragraph. We are not united certainly by the discipline because our covenant has been and is being broken randomly by clergy and leadership who selectively choose to or not to enforce the covenantal framework for which we live out our ministry life. We are severely broken. I believe they have lost their way and something new is emerging with a commitment to traditional, scriptural values.
To the average person, that attends and serves the church, they may not see this brokenness. And I praise God for that because it is ugly when people following God, break covenant with each other. There should be harmony in our Christian Methodist churches as we pursue “making disciples” (Matthew 28:19) because we wrestle with a crafty adversary that seeks to divide us. My prayer is that all Christian denominations would prayerfully attend to making disciples and living in covenant with each other in the process.
Please know that there are many people living out their Christian call through the United Methodist denomination that are making a real positive difference for Jesus. But when the framework is broken that is supposed to support, lift up and provide spiritual accountability and leadership to the body – there needs to be a change because eventually a broken body cries out for something to happen to stop the pain.
You may hear that this pending split is all about the human sexuality issue that has been a dividing controversy inside the denomination for more than a decade. That is certainly a part of it. Our discipline states: (3)”The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” The discipline also: (4)“bans the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” and “it forbids the performance of same-gender unions in the
denomination’s sanctuaries and by its clergy in any setting.” Some feel that these two statements found in the Discipline today, harm those mentioned in the statement. I do not. I believe they are well-founded disciplines and scripturally based. I believe our churches welcome everyone who wants to worship God and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. In this way, we do no harm by welcoming all. But welcoming everyone does not mean that all behaviors are acceptable or that our faith disciplines can be overlooked or driven by cultural norms. This is not judgment of the individual, rather they represent scriptural boundaries that should be a part of the believer, and it is the intent of the church to teach these Biblical boundaries where individuals are transformed by living out the power of God’s Word in their life. Everyone’s life will be judged ultimately by Jesus. (John 5:25-30)
The United Methodist denomination is in the process of reversing and changing the above, long-held positions on human sexuality, ordination qualifications, and holding same-sex weddings at UMC churches. And there is opposition to this reversal/change on scriptural grounds. In my opinion, UMC Leadership has failed to lead the denomination through this controversy; they have failed to lead the church locally and globally; they have failed to honor the covenant that has existed between clergy and the church for decades. That’s why, the bigger issues at hand, revolve around the lack of Biblical accountability and leadership within the UMC. There has been a watering down of scriptural disciplines for sure in the past century and even more so today as witnessed in many arenas of everyday life. We cannot let culture dictate the changing of scriptural boundaries. Scripture is suppose to transform us – culture cannot change scripture.
Because of what has been happening in the UMC, a new denomination, The Global Methodist Church (GMC) is being formed to re-establish a scripturally grounded and accountable body of believers and leaders who honor God and each other in covenant ministry together. The GMC is about less denomination and more ministry. They are about less bureaucracy and more freedom in mission. Their theology is Biblically founded and through Bible study, faithful worship attendance, local and global missions to name a few, the GMC will embrace the people called Methodists. No denomination is perfect, but we are called to be a people concerned with holiness and striving to follow Jesus.
Please feel free to use the resources listed below this article to be more informed. (Note: Your Transition Team has been furnishing related articles since early 2021.)
I am praying for you and for our church’s mission to “share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone in Clewiston and beyond for the transformation of the world.” We will continue to share updates and we continue to pursue ALL the options available to us. Please pray for our church – for unity, clarity of focus and that we seek God’s divine direction. God loves you and so do I.
- Book of Discipline, Section 100
- 2. Book of Discipline, Section 340 3. Book of Discipline, Section 304.
- 3 4. Book of Discipline, Section 304.3 Other sources: UMC – https://umc.org GMC – https://globalmethodist.org
The Tale of Two Denominations