The same pattern has emerged through many parts of the country. Global Methodist Church advocates misrepresent what the United Methodist Church is and will be. This means people and churches are leaving the denomination under false pretenses. Today I'm sharing one specific example from Texas.
A church in Texas that is discussing disaffiliation has distributed a document that allegedly compares the "Two Future Methodist Denominations" with 18 different distinctions made. Some are clearly accurate (like the name of the church and how pensions will be handled). Some have a clear bias but aren't outright false (like the UMC having the same board and agency structure with "all their staff/overhead" when it is likely there will need to be reductions vs. the GMC "New, leaner structure" which is true initially but could easily begin to bloat). If I was writing from the perspective of a GMC supporter, I might say the same thing. I have no major concerns with either of these categories of statements.
Of the 18 statements on this particular document, I would categorize seven as clearly accurate. Five others are not entirely accurate but are understandable approximations (among these, are statements like both denominations will be "welcome of LGBTQ+." I understand that we have very different ideas of what "welcome" means. The other six are, at best deceptive. Briefly, using the categories on the original document:
The Post-Separation UMC will be "Pluralistic: Jesus is one of many ways to be saved." My next planned blog post will specifically address the question of the future theology of the UMC. For the moment, it will suffice to say I don't know of any pastor who preaches that Jesus is one of many ways to be saved. I know pastors who have various understandings of atonement and I know pastors who believe in universalism, that somehow God ultimately saves all people (a belief which, incidentally, you can find in some Church Fathers all the way back to Origen in the second century). I really appreciate this piece from Rev. Jeremy Smith, for example. Jeremy is one of traditionalists favorite people to demean because he comes from a very different theological perspective and moved from the Bible Belt to the West Coast, yet this post would be a great jumping off point for teaching on atonement in any Methodist setting.
The document correctly notes that there will not be guaranteed appointments in the GMC, but it then distinguishes between a UMC where the Bishop, "has the power to move and appoint pastors regardless of church input" and a GMC where "Local churches can select their pastors or request one be appointed. Bishops sign off on choices." This is the most persistent and categorically false description that I still hear. Keith Boyette himself has clarified how the GMC will deploy clergy. "Paragraph 509.2 of the TBD&D says, 'To strengthen and empower the local church to effectively carry out its mission for Christ in the world, clergy shall be appointed by the bishop, who is empowered to make and fix all appointments in the episcopal area of which the annual conference is a part.'” Functionally, there is no difference in the method the denominations will use to deploy clergy. The differences are entirely semantic.
Clergy Appointment Length
There is literally no difference in the denominations. The document says UM clergy are appointed one year at a time and GM clergy have "open-ended" appointments. Paragraph 513 in the GMC's Book of Doctrines and Discipline was lifted directly from paragraph 429 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
Non-celibate gay and transgendered pastors serving in local churches.
This is a simple yes/no question, right? Well, no, for at least two reasons. First, when I'm asked today if a change in the Book of Discipline means, "now we will have pastors who are gay." I always respond, "No, it means that now you are more likely to know that your pastor is gay." Every church I have served has had at least one pastor on its staff at some point in its history who was LGBT. The congregation just didn't know it. Second, the GMC Book of Doctrines and Discipline is silent on people who are transgender. A person who once identified as female and now identifies as male could marry a person who identifies as female and serve as a GMC pastor.
Position on Abortion and Primary church focus
Allegedly, the UMC will now be pro-choice, and its primary focus will be social justice. Regarding abortion, the UMC has always taken a position that this is not a simple "pro-life" or "pro-choice" matter. Similarly, we have always held that social justice and saving souls are two sides of the same coin. They go together. What these two points share in common, and why I grouped them together here, is that they are representative of the either/or thinking that dominates our culture and politics today.