November 04, 2022
What’s happening with the United Methodist Church? If you watch mainstream media, you might have seen articles about the church splintering or splitting. This isn’t entirely true, but it has some truth in its midst. Let’s talk about the UMC.
There was a specially called General Conference in 2019 that did work around issues of human sexuality and the church. It was a very harmful Conference for many in both “camps” – traditional and progressive – and everyone in between. It made things more legalistic and more rules-oriented, while removing any wiggle room for pastors and churches to minister in the unique communities where they are.
What is causing news headlines now is that churches are leaving the denomination. For the first time, General Conference made new provisions for churches to vote to disaffiliate from the UMC while retaining their church property, once certain criteria were met. These criteria were put into place by each Conference Trustees Committee. These provisions had a time limit, their creators never dreaming that a global pandemic would grind everything to a halt.
The provision was given for churches who want to disaffiliate, but that was it. There’s no need for churches to take a vote to stay or go. Most churches have taken the path that St. Mark’s has taken—we are United Methodist. While there are things that we would love to change, this is our identity and we will work from within to make changes, not abandon ship. Mostly, though, we will continue our good work as a church on Magee and La Cañada, benefiting from our connection to other United Methodist Churches.
Since 2019, the Wesley Covenant Association and the Good News movement have completed their work and launched a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church. This launched on May 1 with beliefs that churches doing the work to disaffiliate would join together under this new church.
Since May, we have seen churches disaffiliate across the United States. Do a quick Google search and you will find headlines stating 70 churches in that conference, 1/3 of that conference, 31 in that conference have all left. I didn’t do the work of compiling numbers but I’m sure you can find it online if you search harder than I did!
What we are finding, however, is that less than 20% of the disaffiliating churches are aligning themselves with the Global Methodist Church. Maybe they will later, but for now, they aren’t UMC anymore, but they aren’t joining with the new denomination that was crafted for conservatives who are unhappy with guaranteed appointments for clergy and churches, with authority of the bishops, and with inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community. Many of them are choosing to be independent rather than a denominational church. I don’t know what that means for the long-term but it’s interesting to watch.
Here in the Desert Southwest Conference of the UMC, we might have one or two churches considering disaffiliation, but I haven’t officially heard of any.
No, the UMC isn’t splitting. Yes, there are churches who are choosing to leave. There are pastors who are choosing to leave. Honestly, I wish them well. I pray that those who are leaving will find a renewed ability to reach people who will hear them share the gospel.
That’s our task, too. The work of St. Mark’s is to change the world through Christ. We do that as we care, as we serve, as we give. We do that as we invite, as we mentor, as we form relationships. We do that as we pray, as we study, as we connect. Indeed, the heart of the UMC is not its General and Jurisdictional Conferences, but the local church where hearts are changed and lives are made new.
Please pray for churches who are facing questions of disaffiliation. Please pray for our denomination as it faces the future. Please pray for St. Mark’s as we continue our work in this world, changing the world through Christ.
See you soon.
- 8:30 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Traditional service in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
- 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care (except fifth Sundays)
- 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website
To access our livestream service:
- From the main menu on our website click “Worship.” -OR-
- Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.