United Methodist churches are running out of time if they want to be able to decide whether or not to remain in the United Methodist denomination. In many Conferences, if your church board (i.e., administrative council) doesn’t vote to pursue disaffiliation by the end of February, your church is likely locked into the United Methodist denomination. For the majority of United Methodist churches, staying United Methodist is the correct decision. I still think it is best for leadership to actually commit to staying or leaving…and not just staying by default.
I’ve visited several churches to help them decide. I usually preach, and then, after the service, give a short presentation followed by a time of taking questions. By the way, if you want to hear what I’ve been preaching, I linked to the sermon preached at Hitchcock Methodist Church in the Useful Links. Because time is running short, I just decided to record my presentation for churches, leadership teams, and individuals that are wanting to know more the differences between the United Methodist and Global Methodist denominations. Below are the points in short.
#1 – Differences in Costs
While many have focused on the cost of disaffiliation, I believe the ongoing costs are more important. There’s no debate that the Global Methodist denomination will be much cheaper for churches. Apportionments and pension costs are thousands cheaper. In the Dakotas Conferences, many churches will experience savings from joining the Global Methodist denomination that will offset the cost of disaffiliation in 2-3 years.
In my calculations, I try not to speculate. If I were to speculate about the future, I would guess that United Methodist churches are more likely to see their costs go up. Prior to the split, it was already a struggle to control and cut costs. With such a rapid decrease in churches, there will be a lot of pressure to raise the cost to churches to fund the denomination.
#2 – Differences in Red Tape & Bureaucracy
In all honesty, I kind of wish the Global Methodists had a little more red tape and bureaucracy. Bureaucracy can help administrative tasks run smoothly and efficiently. Right now, I think the Global Methodists have less than ten bureaucrats serving about 1,000 churches. In this season when systems and processes are getting setup, they are being stretched thin. If they weren’t such high caliber people, it would be a mess processing all the churches and pastors coming into the denomination.
Meanwhile in the United Methodist denomination, it’s not uncommon to have ten bureaucrats serving a Conference with 200 churches and then hundreds more bureaucrats at the General Church level. I’m not sure what the best ratio of churches-to-bureaucrats is, but I prefer the Global Methodist’s 100 to 1 ratio to the United Methodist’s 20 to 1.
#3 – Differences in Power of the Local Church
There are two main reasons why an individual may not have full control over their property: 1) they are married, or 2) they are a child or declared incompetent. In the United Methodist denomination, churches don’t have full control over their property. This is because of the Trust Clause. I believe that initially it was because the local churches were “married” to the denominational leaders (Wesley, Asbury, Coke, etc.).The Trust Clause was originally mutually beneficial, and both the local churches and the denomination favored of the arrangement.
Things have changed a lot since then. It seems that the denomination has taken more of a guardian role for the churches where denominational leaders believe the local church is incapable of strategically managing their property. Do churches really need to be protected from themselves? The Global Methodist denomination will not have a Trust Clause. There are also several other provisions that similarly are aimed at empowering churches. I mention these in the video.
#4 – Differences in Team Chemistry
The United Methodist denomination is considered a big tent which is supposed to be open to a diverse range of political and even theological beliefs. Diversity is not a bad thing, but you still need something at your core, besides apportionments, that unites everyone. If there is nothing to unite everyone we’ll tend to focus on our differences instead of our common mission. For a conservative in the United Methodist denomination, you often feel like you have to guard your speech so that you aren’t misunderstood and accidentally offend those that are liberal. I’m guessing that liberals feel similarly.
In the Global Methodist denomination theological beliefs are pretty consistent. The mission is becoming more clear. Whether I’m meeting with churches or denominational leaders, I feel like I am on the same team. There have even been a couple of times that I’ve said things I shouldn’t have. When that has happened, I have been gently corrected.
#5 – Differences in Spiritual Understanding
There is a huge difference between those that hold to Historic Christianity versus those that embrace Progressive Christianity. The differences aren’t trivial either. They differ on the nature of the Bible, the role of Jesus Christ, the mission of the Church, and the source of spiritual truth. On paper, the United Methodist denomination has stuck pretty close to Historic Christianity. In practice, the big tent has accommodated both views plus everything in between.
Many of the strongest proponents of Historic Christianity are departing for the Global Methodist denomination. This will likely lead to the proponents of Progressive Christianity taking a larger role within the United Methodist denomination.
I would encourage you to check out these two Facebook Groups. They are public and will give you a good idea of the beliefs and character of each side.
- Progressive Methodists: https://www.facebook.com/groups/progressivemethodists/
- Global Methodists: https://www.facebook.com/groups/globalmethodistchurch
- GMC vs UMC Comparison Chart: https://peopleneedjesus.net/2021/05/24/two-methodisms-a-comparison-chart/
- Global Methodist FAQ: https://globalmethodist.org/faqs/
- Global Methodist Organizers: https://globalmethodist.org/gm-organizers/
- Global Methodist Catechism: https://globalmethodist.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Catechism-V2.pdf
- Global Methodist Provisional Annual Conferences: https://globalmethodist.org/provisional-annual-conferences/
- Dakotas Disaffiliation Calculator: https://jctaccounting.com/2022/06/17/estimating-cost-of-disaffiliation/
- Dakotas Disaffiliation Process: https://jctaccounting.com/2022/06/03/how-the-disaffiliation-process-works-in-the-dakotas-umc/
- History of the UMC Split (Ready to Harvest): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjydUH-lfDo
- Sermon that typically accompanies presentation: https://www.facebook.com/HitchcockUMC/videos/479998317180556
Take a close look at the differences between the Lutherans in Mission for Christ” and the ELCA. It seems to parallel your movement. Praise God for the GMC. In full disclosure I’m LCMC as of 10 years ago.
Thanks, Gene. That’s a great insight. It seems like the ELCA, PC-USA, and now the UMC are all moving in the same direction. It’s sad to see the decline in these historic denominations.
First of all, in relation to your Peter Cartwright reference and the comment that United Methodists need to be tough, perhaps we do need to be tough, but currently The United Methodist Church does not encourage nor condone violence.
Secondly, in regard to guaranteed appointment, the phrase from Paragraph 334.1 is that “Every *effective* elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment …” (emphasis mine). So, your comment about ineffective pastors itinerating through the connection isn’t necessarily the case. There is a process, laid out in Paragraph 359 that allows the Cabinet to invade the appointment “guarantee” and “locate” a pastor.
Finally, I think your videos miss the point that in order to leave The United Methodist Church under what I think you call fair and reasonable terms, they have to meet the qualifications of Para. 2553, which means they leave because the local church 1) disagrees with the “traditional plan” of the Special General Conference of 2019, 2) disagrees with actions of the Dakotas Annual Conference in regard to human sexuality, or 3) disagrees with inactions of the Dakotas Annual Conference in regard to human sexuality. Local United Methodist Churches may not leave under these terms simply because they approve of the doctrine or polity of a different denomination, or because they find a different denomination might be cheaper or because they don’t want to be “locked into” The United Methodist Church. The opportunity to leave the denomination for reasons other than those listed in Paragraph 2553 is still available to local churches, but they will need to fully satisfy the trust clause.
Hey Duane, Thanks for the comment. I really think Peter Cartwright was quite the character. From the little I’ve read about him, I admire him.
I agree with you that there is a mechanism to remove ineffective elders in the UMC. How often have you seen it used? I admire Bishop Ough and the Cabinet I served with for sometimes making these difficult decisions to transition an elder out. It is very painful so I understand why it seems elders are usually shuffled instead of released.
As far as the reasons and process for leaving under Para. 2553, the UMC opened this door, and now there is a rush for the exit. For the vast majority of my time serving the Dakotas UMC, I pushed for and believed in staying unified. Even after Bishop Ough declared that we were going to split and created the taskforce, it took me several months to accept it.
I appreciate you, Duane. I always admire your toughness when it comes to speaking up for what you believe is proper.