There have been lots of rumors and confusion about the future of the United Methodist Church, and we have tried to keep you informed as best as we can. Unfortunately, rumors travel faster than the truth, so it’s hard to keep up with everything!
Let’s go over the basics:
- The United Methodist Church has been discussing full inclusion of LGBTQ+ into the life of the church. “Full Inclusion” means that LGBTQ+ persons would be welcomed into leadership positions, including as pastors, and that churches and pastors that are open would be allowed to perform same-sex marriage.
- These discussions have been going on for over 50 years, and no final decision has been reached yet. The only authority who can make this decision is the General Conference, which meets every 4 years with representatives from all over the world and sets our official policy.
- The next General Conference will be held in 2024. (2020 was postponed because of COVID.) In 2016 the General Conference provided a way for churches unhappy with the Church’s stance on homosexuality to gracefully leave the denomination, a process called “disaffiliation”. This was passed by the predominately conservative majority at that time. (Paragraph 2553)
- Since then several conservative movements have sprung up, not wanting to wait until the 2024 decision. Although the UMC has voted conservatively every time so far, they feel that they no longer want to be United Methodist and want to start their own denomination. Chief among these dissenters are the WCA (Wesleyan Covenant Association) and the GMC (Global Methodist Church). These groups are actively trying to recruit churches and pastors to leave the UMC and join them.
One of the chief issues (other than sexuality) is the ownership of church property. All properties of the United Methodist Church are held in trust by the Annual Conference where those churches are located. This means that the local church owns the property, but it is held in trust by the Annual Conference to ensure that it will always be used for the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Those who want to leave the denomination want to take all of their property with them, with no strings or responsibility attached. This ignores the millions of dollars that the Conference expended to start those churches, provide them with pastoral leadership, negotiate favorable insurance rates, support our Children’s Home and college campus ministries, and all of the other things that make us a “connectional” church.
If you think of it like a divorce, those wanting to leave want to leave and take everything with them – not sharing anything with their former spouse. They also don’t want to pay child support for the missions and ministries that we do together. The resolution made by the 2016 General Conference (Paragraph 2553) laid out the process, which we all agreed to.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
First of all, WE DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE A VOTE. There is nothing to vote on yet. The UMC has not decided one way or the other. Paragraph 2553 does have an expiration date of Dec. 2023, but the 2024 General Conference will still provide a process for disaffiliating churches to exit.
Second, NO CHURCH WILL BE FORCED TO TAKE A GAY PASTOR, AND NO PASTORS WILL BE FORCED TO DO SAME-SEX MARRIAGES. As your pastor now, I do not have to marry anyone who comes to me. I require counseling for any couple who wishes to marry, and I have refused to marry couples in the past. It is solely at my discretion.
Those wanting to disaffiliate say that “The UMC has broken covenant, and is trying to change God’s Word.” Evidently they aren’t aware of the fact that the word “homosexuality” was never used in the English Bible until 1946. It was the Revised Standard Version authors who translated the words “malakoi” and “arsenokoitai” as “homosexual”, instead of “sexual perverts” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as the King James Version had done before them. And in their notes, they recorded that soon after its publication they were given evidence that this was the wrong interpretation, and they agreed – but they had just signed a 10-year contract that prevented them from changing it until 1957! Meanwhile, the translators of the New American Standard, New International Version and the Living Bible accepted their translation, not knowing that the RSV scholars had rescinded their previous translation!
Please be careful about listening to rumors about the United Methodist Church. I believe we are trying to follow God’s heart and to welcome all of His children into His embrace. We would do much better to love each other, even with our differences, and to focus on bringing souls to Christ.
I will be giving more insight into these issues in the future, so please pray for me as I listen for God’s Spirit in the midst of this.
- Rev. Bill