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CLUB 444: Maybe not just for United Methodists

May 16, 2022

Written by a real life friend and colleague from college and seminary earlier today – – –

I posted the article below just over a year ago. Since then several things have happened, the most significant in this discussion is the postponement of the General Conference to 2024. Frankly, I believe it was postponed for invalid reasons, but clearly political reasons. Another development has been the decision to Disaffiliate based on paragraph 2553, even with its onerous price. Several hundred churches have made this choice. In the next Conference year, several hundred more (thousands more?) will make the same choice. Mt. Bethel settled the lawsuit with the North Georgia Annual Conference in the amount of $13.1 million when their disaffiliation cost would have been less than $5 million, revealing the duplicity of our episcopal leadership. In North GA two ordained clergy married a homosexual couple, but were not charged with violating the Discipline because they did not sign the marriage certificate. One of our male pastors transitioned to female. One candidate for ministry (one of the couple married above) was reinstated by the District Committee on Ministry as a Candidate for ministry. The NGA conference has 71 churches asking to disaffiliate at this AC. There will be hundreds more in 2023. The bishop has declared the 2022 AC will be closed only allowing credentialed delegates to even enter the Classic Center in Athens, GA. The excuse is Covid. D.S’s are filibustering the requests for a Church Conference to vote on disaffiliation claiming scheduling conflicts. The truth is any ordained elder can be designated by the DS to preside at a Church Conference. This is a thinly disguised attempt to control the action of churches. Further, DS’s are giving false and inaccurate information to churches. Is this duplicity or incompetence? I do not know. Progressive pastors are trying to control Traditional congregations not allowing the “split” to even be discussed. Multiple churches are having to have off campus meetings to gather accurate information because of the hostility of their pastors. The Global Methodist Church launched this month with little fanfare but a clear mission. This gives many churches a desired landing zone following disaffiliation. These things, and more, make my article below even more enlightening.

“Why Don’t They Leave?

The most often asked question I have received from Traditionalist pastors and laity concerning the inevitable split in the UMC is, “Why don’t the Progressives just leave and form their own liberal denomination and quit trying to change ours?”

This is an appropriate question. Since 1972 the position of the UMC regarding marriage and ordination has been clear. Every four years at General Conference it has been challenged. Every four years it has been strengthened.

Then the called 2019 General Conference met to resolve this once and for all. The vast majority of the Bishops were “all in” for their highly touted One Church Plan. Even the name was a lie. It would have effectively divided the UMC into several regional churches with various theologies and doctrines. It was supported almost completely by General Board executives and, therefore, staff. The vast communication arm of the denomination was fully in league with the Bishop’s goal. Many Bishops sent their District Superintendents out riding their circuits touting the plan, often in very intimidating ways.

However, the Bishop’s solution was soundly rejected by the delegates and the left was furious. Their action at the GC was appalling. The curtain covering their, “Why can’t we all just get along” was ripped apart and their anger and hostility was on full display via live streaming across the world. Some of us had experienced their anger in the past, but this threw a spotlight on it for the world of Methodism, and many others, to see. It was diabolical and nothing close to reflecting the love and open table they touted.

So they were able to filibuster the process and prevent some real solutions to even get to the floor of the Conference. However, again, the Traditionalist United Methodist church prevailed.

So Progressives returned and immediately began to take out full page newspaper ads decrying the great injustice perpetuated by traditionalists. They developed a political action organization and swept the Clergy and many Lay delegations in several conferences. However, their numbers were still insufficient to change the church’s historic position. Again, anger, hostility, name-calling and inequitable treatment of Traditional pastors and churches escalated. While this had been happening for decades in the more liberal conferences of the UMC it spread to the Southeast and SouthCentral Jurisdictions.

The split deepened and widened. The most recent, apparently coordinated attack by their bishops against several large church Traditional pastors is simply symptomatic of the hostility.

So people rightly ask, “If they are so unhappy, why don’t they just leave?”

To understand the answer there is some historical perspective needed. First, under the tutelage of Dr. Albert Outler, the foremost Wesley scholar of his day, the UMC was formed embracing a concept called “Pluralism.” Essentially this resulted in Methodists ceasing to be a credal church and instead became a church where everyone was free to believe essentially anything they chose to believe.

This was a disaster. Dr. Outler later recognized his mistake and expressed regret over espousing Pluralism in forming the UMC. But the deed was done and United Methodists proudly proclaimed our church to be one “Big Tent” in which various and often opposing theologies and doctrines could just get along. All were welcome.

This gave free license to our already liberal branch to rush further and faster to the left. They flocked to our seminaries, boards and agencies, General Conference committees, etc.

There they developed this cry for “Justice” for the “oppressed” LGBQT+ community. Justice demanded they radically transform the church, converting or removing all the “haters” in the Traditional church. Their cry for inclusion gradually shifted to exclusion, all in the name of Justice.

So their crusade against the orthodox, traditional theology and doctrine grew in volume and intensity. Militant bishops were strengthened in their clearly hostile acts toward Traditionalists. While they openly broke the covenant as it was codified in the Book of Discipline, all in the name of Justice, they acted in many severely unjust ways toward their theological enemies using that same Discipline as a bludgeon.

Again, the growth of the Traditional church in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, the Korean and other ethnic congregations in the US prevented them from changing our historic stand on the issues they focused on. So now again the bishops are recycling the One Church Plan under a different linguist flag to break the majority hold on the church. They will not be successful, as the liberal church shrinks in the US and the Traditional church grows in other countries resulting in a larger majority of Traditional Delegates to General Conference.

So again, “Why don’t they just leave?” There are several answers to that other than the vocal “Justice” demand. But I really believe there is one core reason. Again this is an opinion piece.

Liberals generally have an innate inability to build anything. They are only successful in tearing down. Yes, this is extremely harsh. But look at their record in all the mainline denominations. They took over and the churches went into a death spiral. Just see the Episcopal Church. Once a mighty denomination, statistical analysts predict it will not even exist in 25 years.

Look at the formerly great orthodox seminaries. They are mere shadows and without the endowments left by Traditional orthodox donors of previous generations and the constant influx of cash from denominational sources they simply could not exist. And even with those sources of funding several have closed and we will see many more in the next decade. The trend is clear.

Look at the mission arm of the UMC. Once we were a great force for Christ spreading the Gospel in Africa, India, the Pacific Islands and many other places. Now under liberal control we have, until recently I believe, more Mission Board staff than missionaries. The fulfillment of the great commission has continued, but only in the hands of traditional para-church mission groups like One Mission Society, TMS Global, etc.

Further, look at their record of church planting. It is almost non-existent. They have been prolific in closing churches and raiding their assets for institutional coffers, but planting churches simply is not in their ecclesiastical DNA.

And what about their constant cry, “The mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?” Where is their record of making disciples? Do we see it in their record of growth of Progressive Churches? No, the statistics are just the opposite. New church plants? New mission efforts? More missionaries? New Theological Seminaries? New colleges and universities? New Christian K-12 schools? New large classes of ordinands? New large confirmation classes in local churches? New sources of funding, other than raiding orthodox assets? No to all of the above.

So they depend on attachment to the institutional church for their very survival. They can’t leave any more than a parasitic plant can leave its host and survive.

So Traditionalists will leave. And the excitement in the Traditionalist movement captured and expressed by the Wesley Covenant Association and the Global Methodist Church movements is contagious. The only hold the Progressives have on the host is the Trust Clause in our local churches. Break that and the parasite rapidly declines. Hence, the death grip of Progressives on this one last thing preventing separation. But this will not hold. When? I do not know. But it will not hold!

Frankly, this is the most exciting time in my 50 years of ministry in the UMC. The missional impact will be huge, of that I am absolutely confident. The blessing of the Holy Spirit is all over this. Let’s go and make disciples!”

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