The Global Methodist Church is the latest in a long line of disgruntled Methodists who have removed people, property, and finances from The United Methodist Church in order to create their own perspective free of accountability and oversight.
The Trial Run
In the 1930s, a movement was underway to reunite the branches of Methodism that were torn asunder by the Civil War: the Methodist Episcopal Church (basically the North USA), the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. While creating a Plan of Union, some in the South balked at unifying with the North because they didn’t want to have the black churches and pastors gain equality with the white churches of the South.
While most eventually went along with it, during the unification efforts, there were folks who clung so tightly to their segregationalist beliefs that they could not stomach being in a denomination that included black preachers and churches. So a contingent created a new denomination. Jane Ellen Nickell in We Shall Not Be Moved: Methodists debate race, gender, and homosexuality (2014):
“A few disgruntled holdouts formed the Southern Methodist Church, which grew out of the remnants of the Laymen’s Organization for the Preservation of the Southern Methodist Church…The Laymen’s Organization was founded in 1937 as a last-ditch effort to stave off union. This denomination lost legal battles that prevented them from using the MECS name or retaining any property, but it continues today with 5,000 members in over 100 congregations throughout the southeast.” (Nickell, 45)
The Southern Methodist Church was founded in 1940, a year after the 1939 Uniting Conference. There are many parallels between this process and the creation of the Global Methodist Church…you can read them here.
This trial run was not as successful as they hoped. The Southern Methodist Church didn’t reach the size of other branches of Methodism and didn’t begin with an infusion of property or finances. Any future effort to siphon off resources or mobilize within The UMC would need to make smarter choices.
The Inside Man
Disgruntled anti-minority Methodists eventually found their voice thanks to Rev. Charles Keysor, who was the originator of the Good News Magazine and eventual caucus group for conservative advocacy in The United Methodist Church. His first article (calling for the creation of Good News) was a 1966 article entitled “Methodism’s Silent Minority: A Voice For Orthodoxy”
Orthodoxy seems destined to remain as Methodism’s silent minority. Here lies the challenge: We who are orthodox must become the un-silent minority! Orthodoxy must shed its “poor cousin” inferiority complex and enter forthrightly into the current theological debate. We who are orthodox must boldly declare our understanding of Christian truth, as God has given these convictions to us. We must speak in love and with prophetic fearlessness, and must be prepared to suffer.
Keysor’s article was a rallying cry for who he perceived to be an ideological group that could claim minority status. For straight white men, ideological minorities are the only form of a minority that they can often claim. Before the Internet made such connections easily, Keysor’s mailing list made it possible for folks of a particular ideology to gather arguments and become convicted by shared value literature. Keysor found that rather than separate like the Southern Methodist Church, claiming “minority status” and staying inside the larger organization was a much stronger organizing principle for white people feeling vulnerable after the racial justice efforts of the 1960s.
This call for minority empowerment of white men, however, required constant criticism of actual minorities: those of other races and genders. In Keysor’s response to the 1972 General Conference, he deplored the theologies made by other minority groups–with a common theme:
“women’s theology, liberation theology, black theology, Third World theology, theologies of human rights…the primary accent is upon man’s ideas and problems instead of God’s truth.”
These other ways of doing theology also spoke out of convictions that God had given to them, but molded them through their ethnic identity or social situation, which Keysor did not share.
Keysor’s opposition to such contextual theology developed into his key phrase: minority mania. In 1974, in an editorial in Good News Magazine titled “Confronting the Cults,” Keysor lays out his opposition to minority groups doing theology informed by their identity:
“One of the most common forms of humanism is minority mania–the preoccupation by the church with minorities which represent only a small fraction of the whole membership…this variety of humanism replaces God as the primary object of love and concern with “sexist” obsession and “racist” obsession over being white, black, yellow, red, or brown-skinned.
The opposition to “minority mania” continues from 1974 to today as the coalition of groups that are part of the Global Methodist Church’s constellation of supporting organizations regularly criticize feminist, Latino and black liberation, queer, and other theologies that speak about their experience of God out of their ethnicity, gender, and identity rather than in spite of them. While there are some ethnic minorities and women who are part of the coalition, that doesn’t negate the suspicion of those who do theology primarily from those identities.
The Shadow Denomination
Since the 1970s, by claiming to be ideological minorities but continuing to persecute ethnic and gender minorities, the Traditionalists began to operate parallel denominational resources without oversight or accountability.
Through the Mission Society (1984 parallel to the General Board of Global Missions), Bristol House Books (1987 parallel to Abingdon, now part of Seedbed), and the RENEW network (1989 tiny parallel to UM Women…incidentally, UMW has now rebranded as United Women in Faith), traditionalists created their parallel structure that provides books, women’s fellowship, and missionaries for congregations to support outside of United Methodist oversight, accountability, or connectional leadership. And like-minded congregations and pastors reallocated their church tithes and budgets to these entities.
These structures and others like them have been siphoning off money and people and even the evangelical spirit from the UMC since they began, and these efforts (or threats of them) have been turning UMC more conservative. Since the 1980s, The UMC has consistently become more conservative in polity and practice and has numerous caucus groups promoting that perspective:
In 1988, the General Conference successfully removed pluralism as an official tenant of our faith, declared scripture to be primary, and re-wrote the theological task section of the BoD (which made it more in line with evangelical thought)…In the past 40 years, we have seen the emergence of Good News, the Confessing Movement, the Mission Society, Bristol House Books, Renew, the IRD and UMAction, Transforming congregations AND Lifewatch.
Simply put, counter to Keysor’s narrative of Traditionalist oppression in the UMC over the last 40 years, what we actually see is continual ownership. But these parallel organizations also allowed them to have unfettered and unaccountable outlets that continually pulled The UMC further and further to the right. It’s only been in recent years that it has become evident that it’s gone about as far as it can go.
Traditionalists have both dominated the United Methodist Church and, at the same time, siphoned off money and people to a shadow denomination with free reign over curriculum, missions, and advocacy. All they needed now was a new container, a new denomination, and in the darkness to bind them.
Three Rings to Rule Them All
Beginning in 2016, the Wesleyan Covenant Association emerged as a new effort to organize Traditionalists inside and outside The United Methodist Church. As I write this, we are one week away from the official launch of the Global Methodist Church as an actual denomination, which is owned by that same Wesleyan Covenant Association. Whereas the Southern Methodist Church began out of opposition to African-Americans, the Global Methodist Church began out of opposition to LGBTQ+ inclusion, though both denominations fall over themselves trying to say otherwise.
When we look at our history, we’ve seen these efforts before. We’ve seen the same claims of persecution as the basis for separation. We’ve seen the same denigrating of minorities. We’ve even seen the same regions of the South in leadership then as now.
The Global Methodist Church has worked hard to avoid past mistakes. The Protocol would have allowed them to leave with money and property that the Southern Methodist Church lacked–but there are other efforts underway to achieve the same goal. The already-established social media channels and publishing arm of Seedbed (Asbury Theological Seminary’s book publisher) reach further than even Charles Keysor’s Good News email list. And it is only a matter of time before the Global Methodist Church incorporates that shadow denominational structure into its own structure.
And yet, the basis, the organizing principle, is the same in every decade: by claiming minority status, white people will commit people, property, and finances to any organization that allows them to scapegoat other minorities. The harm won’t stop in the UMC when the GMC leaves, and it won’t stop in the new GMC either. Listen to the rhetoric this week, and over and over, you’ll hear echoes of this persecution mindset, I predict.
As a pastor, I grieve that we could have done so much more together, reached new heights with an inclusive Wesleyan church with a fierce evangelical zeal. But along the way, those obsessed with minority groups–so much so that they would even claim for themselves a persecuted minority status, which is seductive fruit to evangelicals–have kept us from the dream. It’s a time for mourning and shaking our heads, not celebration.
Where we go from here is up to you, dear reader, as we navigate the new terrain ahead.
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John E Thompson
Interesting take on the history and causes. I guess if one looks at the world through your lens of understanding it makes sense.
Could it possibly be that the whole comes down to an understanding of how to read and interpret the Bible?
Keith A. Jenkins
No, it could not possibly be. Not the whole thing. Differences in reading and interpreting scripture are certainly part of the mix. But usually, those who claim most loudly that everything they do is because they are just following the “Word of God,” refuse to acknowledge the many ways in which they reject, exclude, and condemn many of God’s Children. In other words, refuse to admit their own sinfulness in any meaningful way and, therefore, reject their need to repent.
The irony in this familiar pattern, of course, is that Jesus had much to say about those who deny their sin and think they don’t need to repent–words that always seem to apply to everyone BUT these folks.
From 1974-to 1976 I was on the Northwest Texas Conference staff. Ed Robb, Sr was at St. Luke’s UMC in Lubbock and he was chair of Good News. There were several Good News pastors in that conference and they put roadblocks in the way of most conference programming. The big issue for them at that time was Sunday School curriculum. From 1976 t0 1978 I was on the Central Texas Conference staff. During that time I was confronted about curriculum, but also was told I had no right to call myself a Christian because I did not let my husband make all family decisions. I had the audacity to say we considered decisions together. I really resonated with this article. I lived it.
Love you Gloria!
I wonder if the real difference between The UMC and the Global Methodist Church (and its predecessors) is that The UMC has never expressed a theology that invites people to become a community of belonging. With exclusionary groups, the members find a strong sense of belonging because they look and act like everyone else in the group. A church that offers inclusion of only White straight people has a built-in mechanism for encouraging that sense of belonging among its members. We should never underestimate the power of this sense of belonging. In our fractured world, having a group that one feels an integral part of offers a sense of stability, safety, and self-worth that is hard to find.
Most of The UMC proclaims that we are a church that is inclusive of everyone, but we lack a good story for why that means we all belong together. Imagine a person walking into a church service where they see no other person of their same ethnic group, or gender identity, or socio-economic status. Nothing obvious connects them to the people in the room, especially nothing that our society deems important or qualifying for belonging to a group. How does that person begin to belong to this wonderful “inclusive” community?
What story do we tell that will immediately connect that person to the group? What actions do we take that will connect that person to God’s all-encompassing love? I think The UMC should spend a lot more time developing its theology and practice of inclusion so that we might know why we all belong.
My main concern is the binary choice the WCA continues to present: UMC vs. GMC. Already congregations have left for perhaps the most progressive/inclusive UCC, the even more conservative Free Methodist Church, the new (2009) ACNA that’s not in communion with TEC, and still others have gone indy/non-denom. Dad (RIP) lived and preached through the 1939 and 1968 mergers. Glad he’s gone on to Glory and doesn’t have to live through this.
Paul C Draper
John Wesley was well-studied, yet a man of one book. It wasn’t written by a Process theologian either.
“We like the image of Jesus suffering and forgiving, but to Hell with this scriptural call to holy living!”
(No. To Hell with unscriptural living!)
This article is entirely focused on the United States and completely ignores the United Methodist Church outside the United States, which is significantly more traditionalist in worldview and outlook compared to American United Methodists. The Bulgaria-Romania Conference has already left the United Methodist Church and joined the Global Methodist Church. The African based Conferences are waiting for the 2024 General Conference for the protocols for separation to be ratified before leaving the United Methodist Church for the Global Methodist Church. Many African United Methodists have stated that if the General Conference gets delayed again they would be at the end of their patience and plan on jumping ship to the Global Methodist Church.
If the people behind the Global Methodist Church do succeed in taking the traditionalist Methodists with them, they will quickly find out that the Global Methodist Church will be dominated by non-Americans, and especially African Methodists, with the American traditionalists allied with the WCA only a small minority in the Global Methodist Church. Such a church would be the nightmare of past schismatics who did not want African and Asian and Latin American Methodists to ever dominate their Methodist Church. From a global perspective, it is ironically the remaining United Methodist Church that would likely find itself restricted to the Anglosphere and Western Europe, and significantly more white than the Global Methodist Church.
I do not understand most of what this article was pointing fingers or alluding to with all that background and comparisons but it sure sounds judgemental to me and does not apply to what is really happening.
I believe that you are wrong in your understanding of how people who believe that homosexuality does not follow the teachings of the Bible think or behave.
I believe that people promoting homosexuality as not a sin are false teachers. The Bible warns that you will infilrate our churches and you have. You are misleading people. God created marriage and Jesus affirmed that marriage was between a man and a woman. I do not believe God makes mistakes. But apparently you do or maybe you read a different Bible than I do. God has not changed. God’s truth remains the same. Jesus was anything but one to follow worldly views. Cultural truths are not God’s truth. I have been a UM FOR 58 YEARS. I am so sad this issue is tearing apart the church I have devoted most of my life, but I can not support a church that does not follow the teachings of Jesus.
There are so many warnings about people like you in the Bible.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Where does God affirm homosexuality in the Bible?
But the Bible does say
in 2 Peter 1:19-21
19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.
21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
How we feel has nothing to do with exclusion. It has to do with knowing what the Bible says. And Jesus corrected people through His love, but he did not condone sin.
You are leading many people in the wrong direction. Woe to you. !
God is Love! So funny you are quick to call someone judgmental and in the same breath quick to point out your interpretations. Worry about your salvation and stop with the hate! Thoughts and prayers are with you Lori!
It is interesting that Lori simply quoted the Bible and pointed out those who were interpreting scripture to suit their own worldly beliefs. The global church simply believes that the Bible is infallible and the church doctrine stated such. If the UMC leadership will allow pastors and leadership to ignore church law and rules, then we will leave to continue following the Methodist traditions and disciplines we lived and believe. The UMC can now rewrite their rules that will ignore scriptural teachings to fit their worldly views.
I follow Jesus & the Bible. My GMC congregation accepts ALL people including gay. My late brother was gay, I loved him dearly no matter what he chose. I/we do however feel pushing trans choices & sexuality on children who are very vulnerable & innocent is diabolical & will negatively affect them later in life when they are mature enough to understand. Coercive surgery on children that can’t be reversed is clearly a sin against humanity. Those children will never be able to have their own children. Children are a sacred product of a marital union. Be careful about pointing fingers when you’re at the pulpit. Accept ALL people & protect innocent children.
David L. Wallerstedt
My previous pastor seems to have promoted an attempt to convert our UMC to a Global Methodist church about the time of the covid 19 crisis. I was absent from this congregation mostly because church service attendees were not wearing protective masks and my age and medical condition put me a high risk. One church newsletter I got made me highly suspect that something was going estray. The pastor wrote an extremely supportive story about Rush Limbaugh and the admirable things he did for the country, after his death. I incensed because I heard Limbaugh’s divisiveness periodically from his first broadcasts. This pastor seems to have recruited 90 GMC’s as members. I have since moved to another UMC. Many of the people good people I knew have also left.
Is a lady Minister able to make decisions involving her family and finances. Should the Church speak out against racial injustice? Does God care about abused women? Are the only subjects acceptable from the pulpit, “God’s love and SalvationJ