A group of conservatives formerly affiliated with the United Methodist Church has launched a new denomination.
The new group, the Global Methodist Church, officially launched May 1. The group had initially been in discussions with the UMC about separating through a reconciliation process, but after the General Conference was delayed this year for a third time, they moved forward with the act of separation. The Columbian explains that the denomination’s launch follows a five-day meeting of the UMC’s bishops, who acknowledged the new group’s existence:
The breakaway denomination, called the Global Methodist Church, will officially exist as of today. Its leaders have been exasperated by liberal churches’ continued defiance of UMC bans on same-sex marriage and the ordination of openly gay clergy.
Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who became the Council of Bishops’ new president Friday, described the launch of the new movement as a “sad and sobering reality.” Bickerton said he regrets any departure from the United Methodist Church and values the denomination’s diversity of thought.
“There is no perfect church,” he said. “The constant fighting, the vitriolic rhetoric, the punitive behaviors have no place in how we preserve and promote our witness as Christian believers.”
In a news release posted on the GMC’s Website in the days leading up to the denomination’s founding, a Transitional Leadership Council spokesman admitted that the future was unsure, but characterized the Council as “increasingly excited”:
Put simply, we are launching the Global Methodist Church on May 1 because no local church, no annual conference, and no pastor can join it until it actually exists. Since the Transitional Leadership Council announced the name of the new church back in early 2020 and then earlier this year announced its official launch date, inquiries have poured in about joining it. Who can join? How can they join? And of course, when can they join? Choosing some date for the birth of the church was a practical necessity. And there are local churches, an annual conference, and pastors who will be part of the Global Methodist Church from day one.
Also, it is no secret that many theologically conservative local churches and even some annual conferences in the U.S. have, for some time, wanted to part ways with The United Methodist Church. Annual conferences in the U.S. meet in May and June, and during these months some local churches will complete a separation process from the UM denomination. Some have made clear they would like to join the Global Methodist Church, so with its launch on May 1, these congregations will be able to join as soon as possible.
In truth, we do not know how many local churches departing in May or June will join the Global Methodist Church. Some, having lived in a dysfunctional denomination that has been either unable or unwilling to maintain accountability, want nothing to do with another denomination. However, we do anticipate that some churches that opt to go independent initially, will ultimately choose to align with the Global Methodist Church. Others, recognizing the classic Methodist value of connectionalism and our commitment to the core theological and ethical confessions of the Christian faith, will join us. We will gladly welcome them.
One of the GMC’s founding bishops was a member of the UMC’s Council of Bishops. UMC News reports that a portion of the five-day session that ended with the acknowledgement of the GMC included the discussion of retired Bishop J. Michael Lowry’s resignation.
Lowry, who retired Jan. 1 after leading the Central Texas Conference for more than 13 years, serves on the Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council.
Then-president Harvey sent Lowry a letter April 21 noting that if he remained in the Global Methodist Church’s leadership after its launch, his United Methodist membership would be terminated. The United Methodist Church does not allow clergy members to be part of more than one denomination.
Lowry responded with his own letter April 28 notifying the Council of Bishops that he was resigning from the episcopal office to join the Global Methodist Church.
“I take this action with a heavy heart and deep grief,” he wrote before enumerating his reasons for leaving. Lowry published both Harvey’s letter and his response in the online journal Firebrand.
The Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline can be found online here.