As the official split between conservative and liberal Methodists continues to drag on, conservatives went ahead and released plans for a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church, which will not recognize same-sex marriage.
The United Methodist Church has been expected to split over LGBT issues, but the negotiations have been delayed due to COVID-19. Calls for a split intensified after delegates to the UMC conference voted 438-384 to strengthen bans on “LGBT-inclusive” practices. Many liberals in the UMC said they would not abide by the bans.
Rev. Keith Boyette chairs the Global Methodist Initiative and says conservatives do not want to wait until the next scheduled conference, set to take place in August 2022. Boyette hopes the issue will be added to a one-day online conference on May 8. “The church is basically stalemated right now. We don’t believe an additional year is going to be helpful for anybody,” Boyette said.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who heads the UMC’s Council of Bishops, said that discussing a split online “does not seem wise or ethical.” Boyette said conservatives would be willing to wait, but only if others in the UMC remain committed to previous agreements. The Global Methodist Church has unveiled a website with details about the new denomination, including a 97-page transitional book of doctrines and discipline.
Of the transition, Boyette said,
“The primary mission of the Global Methodist Church will be to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly … 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 lifegiving confessions of the Christian faith.”
Many involved in the new denomination are from African nations or the Philippines, where conservatives are much stronger than in the United States. Rev. Philippe Adjobi, a member of the Transitional Leadership Council, is also a district superintendent in the Cote d’Ivoire Annual Conference and a General Conference delegate. Adjobi said,
“It was a great honor to participate in such exhilarating work. 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.”
Dr. Bob Hayes, a Transitional Leadership Council member and Bishop in Residence at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in The Woodlands, Texas, said,
“I am convinced the Global Methodist Church will be a vibrant, vital expression of Methodism in terms of its teachings and ethics. 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!”
In stark contrast to the Global Methodist Church is the Liberation Methodist Connexion, a breakaway grassroots denomination of former, current, and non-Methodist faith leaders. Whereas its conservative counterpart issued a lengthy doctrinal treatise, this progressive movement says on its website:
“LMX theology is not written in stone because our human understanding continues to evolve as we deepen our personal and collective understandings of God. We have been expanding our methodist (sic) theological heritage with various expressions of Liberation theologies, theories, and praxis. God remains infinitely gracious, creative, merciful, and engaged with creation, healing and redeeming the world.”
The group seeks “correct action” rather than correct doctrine. Correct action “includes reparations, caring for the earth, and finding new ways to live together outside of systems like colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, clericalism, and heteronormativity.”
Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller said, “We seek not answers that lead us to correct doctrines as to why we suffer. We seek correct actions, correct praxis, where God sustains us during the unanswerable questions.”
She believes that God was in the movement that John Wesley started and that “we are its queer, strange fruit.” The website further explains:
“We are journeying toward a new way of being followers of Christ that refute the imbalance of powers, principalities, and privileges that has plagued Methodism: colonialism, white supremacy, economic injustices, patriarchy, sexism, clericalism, ableism, ageism, transphobia, and heteronormativity.”
The case of the UMC and its divergent paths is a perfect example of the need for sound doctrine derived from Scripture. John Piper, in discussing the decline of mainline Protestant churches, said, “Adjust your doctrine — or just minimize doctrine — to attract the world, and in the very process of attracting them, lose the radical truth that alone can set them free.”
He pointed out that when the church adopts the teachings of the world, there is nothing to distinguish it from the world. Denominations are dying because in their attempt to cater to the world, they lose their power.
The Global Methodist Church, in its attempt to adhere to biblical doctrine on sexuality, has decided to split from the UMC, carefully laying out its doctrinal statements. By contrast, LMX, by contrast, is not a church but rather a political activism group built on the tenet of affirming leftist ideology rather than proclaiming the power of God to change and deliver anyone. It certainly is strange fruit, but it is not the fruit of Christ, but of the world.
Doctrine is often thought of as cold, unloving, unnecessary, and boring. That could not be further from the truth as doctrine is what grounds us in love for Christ. Scripture repeatedly affirms the necessity of sound doctrine such as 2 Timothy 4:2-4 wherein Paul writes,
“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
In Colossians 2:8, Paul encourages his readers, “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ.”
Many will set themselves — rather than Scripture — as the standard of what Christ taught. This makes doctrine all the more important. Where some, such as LMX, charge that “correct action” is found not in doctrine but in “love” and “affirmation,” John Stott writes, “Good conduct arises out of good doctrine.” It is only through being grounded in God’s truth that we will truly love others.
As C.S. Lewis wrote,
“For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hands.”
By engaging God on His terms, rather than how we wish Him to be, we see God as the all-powerful, holy, uncompromising, merciful, and gracious Lord that He is. Man’s doctrine is not set in stone and is empty. God’s doctrine never changes and saves even the vilest of offenders.