After years of debate, conservatives split from United Methodist Church
United Women of Faith of Flushing held a baby shower between services for Mannschreck’s fourth and youngest son, Asher.
And – what made it special – a member of the church’s preaching team delivered his first sermon, on Moses and forgiveness, as part of the “There and Back” series of sermons, a reference to the novel JRR Tolkien’s classic “The Hobbit”.
What no one mentioned was that May Day was also the launch of the World Methodist Church, a new theologically conservative denomination that is breaking away from the United Methodist Church that Mannschreck plans to join.
After decades of spiteful debates over LGBTQ United Methodist ordination and marriage, a special General Conference session of The United Methodist Church, and three postponements of a vote to officially split the denomination, the schism has finally come.” without fanfare, but full of hope, faith and perseverance.
This is how the Reverend Keith Boyette, president of the Transitional Leadership Council of the World Methodist Church, described the launch of the new denomination. in a report published a few days earlier on its website.
Sunday’s launch, Boyette told Religion News Service last week, “was most definitely driven by practicality and the fact that the postponement of General Conference has caused many people to say they’re tired of waiting and weary that the conflict will not be addressed and resolved by the United Methodist Church.”
Delegates debated questions about sexuality at every quadrennial General Conference meeting of The United Methodist Church since 1972, when language was first added to the denomination’s Book of Discipline saying “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”.
This debate came to a head in 2016, when the bishops announced a special General Conference session dedicated to the topic.
Delegates to the 2019 special session ended up approving something called the Traditional dietwhich reinforced enforcement of language in the denomination’s rulebook against ordination and marriage of LGBTQ members.
Progressive United Methodists undertakes not to take into account the results of the extraordinary session. The Conservatives, frustrated by the continued debate, threatened to leave anyway. Finally, a group representing all of the different theological viewpoints within the denomination brokered an agreement to create a separate “traditionalist” Methodist denomination that would receive $25 million over the next four years.
Delegates to General Conference – which brings together delegates from around the world – in 2020 were ready to vote on this propositioncalled the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, when the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, canceling their reunion not once, but thrice. Currently, it is set for 2024.
The third postponement this year was the final straw for members of the World Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council, which was already lay the foundation for a new denomination. The board immediately announced that it would launch the new denomination on Sunday.
The date was prompted by practical reasons, according to Boyette: If clergy, churches, and regional annual conferences want to join the World Methodist Church, it must first exist.
United Methodists in the United States hold their annual meetings in May and June, he said. Over the next few weeks, some may be considering avenues to allow churches to walk away with their properties. Others can vote for the entire conference to disaffiliate.
Already, the Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference has vote leave the United Methodist Church and join the World Methodist Church.
At least one retired bishop — Mike Lowry, a member of the Transitional Leadership Council — has presented his credentials to The United Methodist Church for the fledgling denomination.
Boyette said the Transitional Leadership Council doesn’t know how many more will follow this summer. He didn’t have numbers Monday on how many clergy, churches or conferences had joined the denomination with the launch, but he believes hundreds of churches across the United States have already started the process of disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church, and most will land in the worldwide Methodist Church.
Some can wait to see what the General Conference decides in 2024.
Until the World Methodist Church holds its calling conference, the Transitional Leadership Council will conduct clergy background checks and review information submitted by those hoping to join the new denomination to ensure that they align with The World Methodist Church and its Doctrines and Discipline Transition Book. .
The Wesleyan Covenant Association — a group of conservative individuals and churches within The United Methodist Church which Boyette also leads — will consider legislation regarding the “future of the WCA and its leaders” at its meeting world this weekend, he said.
He will also contribute more than $1 million to the World Methodist Church from the Next Methodism Fund he established when the protocol was announced, according to Boyette.
Progress towards a new denomination is bittersweet.
“I don’t think anyone is dancing for joy that we are in this place of Methodism. I think there’s a sadness that we’ve come to this and we’re back in this season,” Boyette said.
Bishops echoes that sentiment at last week’s spring meeting of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
“Although I still wish that we could all stay in this church, I am clear that some cannot. I mourn and regret that more than words can express, but I have no interest in serving a chamber of d ‘echo,’ said Bishop Cynthia Fierro-Harvey, outgoing chair of the council.
“I’m a big tent church person who believes that every voice is important to the whole, sometimes as boring as that can be – that every part of the body is important to the whole. I also realize it may be time to bless and send our sisters and brothers who cannot stay in the big tent,” she said.
By Sunday, the worldwide Methodist Church had taken all the necessary steps to become a legal entity, according to its leaders.
And Mannschreck, the pastor of Flushing United Methodist Church, told RNS he was ready to get to work.
He plans to transfer his credentials to the new name – but not right away. His congregation will also discuss and vote to join the Methodist World Church.
The conversation about sexuality is important, Mannschreck said, but he’s done with it. His congregation – a church he described as “on the way to nothing” between farmland and Flint that includes young and old, urban and rural, liberal and conservative – is also over.
That may be the main problem, but it’s not the only one for many who are considering leaving The United Methodist Church for the Methodist World Church, according to the pastor, who describes himself as a “traditionalist.” .
He recalls when The United Methodist Church launched its Imagine No Malaria campaign in the 2000s, pledging to raise $75 million to fight the disease in Africa. He was then excited about the difference a worldwide denomination could make.
He’s feeling that momentum again, he said.
“I’m really excited to get back to work, to have had this conversation and to have made these votes. I’m very excited to move on to the next thing,” he said.
The Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church will meet in June and Mannschreck will likely attend for the last time.
He will sit next to his father, Reverend Jack Mannschreck of Central United Methodist Church in Waterford, Michigan, who, unlike his son, plans to remain in the denomination he has served for the past 38 years.
They will sit next to each other again on Thanksgiving, the two pastors stressed.
As contentious as debates over sexuality and other issues have become in The United Methodist Church, they will not divide the Mannschreck family.
Elder Mannschreck said that when he considers words of jesus for “not judging lest you be judged” and the fact that he has never served a church that did not have gay people, he sided with full LGBTQ United Methodist inclusion.
“I think exclusion is probably contrary to Christian teachings when you think about how inclusive Christ was,” he said.
He doesn’t know how much different everyday life will really be for Methodist churches — united and worldwide — after the schism.
Reverend Jack Mannschreck and his son will continue to love Jesus, he said. They will both continue to love each other. And they both hope that their churches can now move beyond resentment and debate.
“My best hope is that we will be stronger denominations together – but we really need to get back to work on issues that should define us, like the grace of God,” he said.
— Religious News Service