Conservative Methodists announce launch date for new denomination

Conservative congregations fear the denomination could eventually swing more toward progressives

The Global Methodist Church, a new denomination of theologically conservative Methodists, will officially launch on May 1, a move that was expected for some time in the fight over full inclusion of the LGBTQ community.

The issue of full inclusion has been brewing in the United Methodist Church for decades.

In 2019, the denomination upheld and strengthened prohibitions against the ordination of non-celibate LGBTQ clergy and performing same-sex marriages.

Conservatives, though, fear the denomination, the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, could eventually swing more toward progressives.

The decision to announce a launch date now rather than wait was likely due to the United Methodist Church’s decision to postpone the General Conference, which was to be held Aug. 29 through Sept. 6 in Minneapolis.

The General Conference is now pushed back to 2024.

Delegates were to vote on an orderly split from the UMC under the proposed “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” at that meeting.

The General Conference had been delayed before. The 2020 conference was postponed to 2022 then two years from now.

The last General Conference, the top policy-making body of the UMC, which meets every four years, was held in 2016 in Portland, Ore. A special General Conference was held in St. Louis in 2019 during which delegates tackled the divisive issue of full inclusion for the LGBTQ community.

The Rev. Keith Boyette, chairman of the 17-member Transitional Leadership Council and president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association said in a press release that many United Methodists have grown impatient with the UMC, a “denomination clearly struggling to function effectively at the general church level. "

JJ Warren of New York embraces Julie Arms Meeks of Atlanta during protests outside the United Methodist Church's 2019 Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis in  February 2019. The United Methodist Church faces a likely surge in defections and defiance after delegates at a crucial conference voted to strengthen bans on same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBT clergy. (AP Photo/Sid Hastings)

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He said he was confident that many local congregations would join “in waves” over the next few years.

The proposal, hammered out over several months in borrowed space in a Washington, D.C., law office, lays out a blueprint for the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination that includes $25 million over several years to the new denomination, which would give up further claims to UMC assets.

Boyette said it was anticipated that some conservative churches “will find annual conferences willing to negotiate fair and just exit provisions, while others will unfortunately face obstacles placed in their paths.”

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference of the UMC, which includes metro Atlanta, said the United Methodist Church is in “ministry to the poor and hungry in our communities, we are working to dismantle racism, trying to be agents of reconciliation in a polarized world. We believe that our best witness of the unifying power of Jesus Christ is that we love and work hand-in-hand with people with whom we may not entirely agree. "

In the North Georgia Conference has 800 churches and more than 300,000 lay members.

The Commission on the General Conference, the 25-person group tasked with planning the global meeting, said in a press release that the decision to postpone the meeting was due to COVID-related and travel constraints, including a backlog in getting visas for the large number of delegates coming from outside the United States.

The UMC has members in 40 nations.