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CLUB 444: Disaffiliation

September 9, 2022

Thomas E. Frank wrote this recently and graciously allows it to be shared —

Dear Disaffiliating United Methodist congregations,

The pastors and lay members who are leading you to vote to leave the UMC tell you that your local church will remain the same as it always has been. No. It will never be the same. And here’s a few of many reasons why:

+ some of your members will vote to stay in the UMC. Votes like this are deep wounds that people rarely get over. Divisions like this can scar your congregation for generations to come. If you thought the vote to sell the parsonage was bad, just wait till you vote on this.

+ disaffiliating from a widely diverse and “big tent” denomination will leave you in a cave of the like-minded. What could be more deadly, or less appealing to the children and grandchildren of your church family?

+ you’ve been told that your congregation and others who “think the same way” are the “true” Wesleyans who truly “believe” in scripture. John Wesley is spinning in his grave to see this kind of sectarianism take over the tradition he began. He pleaded that Methodism never become a “sect” and that Methodists learn to differentiate what’s really basic from what is incidental. And to clothe it all in love. Your leaders will tell you that today’s “issues” are basic. Really? Compared to what? Wesley’s times? Please.

+ everybody knows that the main excuse for leaving is the growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ members, weddings, and ordinations in the wider church and society. In other words, you’re voting to reject a good number of your fellow members. Will some of them stay anyway? Yes, sure, out of loyalty to your church. But the stain of organizing around exclusion will never wash out.

+ you will be voting to walk away from one of the most faithful and effective religious organizations in American history. Colleges and schools, hospitals, social services, missions to help others, are all the fruit of this tradition. Little wonder it grew to be one of the largest denominations. It has been divided before, for sure. The big one was over slavery, and the faction that refused to challenge slavery also asserted that they were the “true” Methodists. Do you really want to be associated with that? Because today’s disaffiliations look pretty much the same.

+ If you choose to join the so-called Global Methodist Church, you will be part of a group that started organizing 50 years ago to try to control the UMC. They used misrepresentations, exaggerations, distortions, and by the way, funding from the same folks who have deformed the Republican Party, to leverage church law and General Conference process into legalistic control of the denomination. What makes you think they wouldn’t do exactly the same to you? They already have a proposed church law that allows your congregation to be voted out for nonconformity. Once that gets started, stand back and watch the fireworks. It’s coming your way.

+ I’m one of what I believe to be the vast majority of UMC folks who don’t want you to leave. I don’t agree with you about some things, but I believe totally in the big tent or what the English church of Wesley’s day called the “broad church.” That gives us a place to remain in fellowship and conversation. We can talk. If you leave, that will come to a crashing halt. And that would be a shame. No, probably a sin.

That’s my starter list. Let me know if you want to hear more.

Tom+

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