For about a year now, I haven’t posted all that often on the ‘ol bloggerino. Some of that was because I had just moved and was settling into a new job (which I wrote about here), some of it was because I just had a son (which ironically was a couple days before the entry on birthdays, which I didn’t plan at all), but the biggest reason was because of what’s been going on in the United Methodist Church. The church split in a super-political mess and evangelicals and traditionalists left and started a new denomination: the Global Methodist Church.
Unsurprisingly, a guy who regularly blogs about classic theology is very much a theological traditionalist, so I found myself navigating the tricky politics in all of this. I led a church through a discernment process to see if they wanted to leave. I constantly stayed up-to-date on the circumstances as they unfolded and shifted. I managed the gross politics of it all. Needless to say, it was really stressful and hard. Frankly, I don’t plan on writing about the specifics of it here anytime soon, if ever. It was ugly and there’s no immediate need to relive it. A quick google search will help you discover just bad the politics of leaving the UMC were/are. There are already very skilled people with a greater knowledge of the political circumstances than myself writing about this, so I’ll leave it to them.
But why didn’t I write anything about historic church splits? After all, I did a ton of research on the topic of church splits in America over the past hundred or so years. There were several times I wanted to blog about it, but it would have been pretty imprudent to openly talk about church splits with an orthodox/traditionalist bias when I was still working for the United Methodist Church. There were even a couple articles that I posted that I ended up taking down, just because I knew that if a congregation member stumbled across them and felt that they reflected my own opinion too clearly, it might cause trouble down the road. I had to play my hand close to my vest until their discernment process was done. If they wanted out, I’d help them navigate the process. If they didn’t, I’d head out on my own. Sadly, the final vote from church members ended with them choosing to remain United Methodist (they needed 66.6% to leave and only managed 62%), so I had to say goodbye and move on to the Global Methodist Church.
I won’t pretend it wasn’t a terrifying transition. So many of the churches that leave the UMC are able to do so because a supportive pastor helps guide them through the disaffiliation process. It only takes 34% of people to block a disaffiliation vote, and if the pastor isn’t interested in helping you leave, drumming up 34% tends to be pretty doable (if they even present disaffiliation as an option to them in the first place). I wasn’t sure if there would be an open church that I could get a job at, but God is good. Not only were there multiple opportunities available, but one of them was perfect. Sometimes, you just go to a place, meet the people and realize, “Yeah, this is it.” I’m off to Kenton, Ohio to work with Walnut Grove GMC, and I’m incredibly grateful to God for that opportunity.
It’s been a hard year, but I’m a few weeks away from being a part of a new denomination with a new church and a new future, and I’m so excited. The simple fact that clergy are actually expected to affirm the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian definition is music to my ears, but on top of that, language in church law concerning Scripture is elevated, language concerning tradition is more reverent, church rites have been rewritten to be in-line with historic norms, there are more listed reference documents for historic orthodoxy, and the church bureaucracy is slimmer. I’m happy as a clam (assuming, of course, that clams are pretty darn happy on the whole).
For those reading this that are United Methodist, no hate. I’m dear friends with many of you and have grown a lot during our time together. That being said, we know we believe different things. It’s time to go our separate ways. I’m sure we’ll still be friends and learn from each other, but we’ll have more integrity working seperately than we would together.
For those that are looking to jump ship and haven’t made it quite yet, hang in there and keep excited. It’s worth it.
For those that aren’t Methodist at all and are wondering why they should care about this, just remember that for Christians in any denomination under the sun, orthodoxy has a cost. No matter what tradition you’re in, no matter how sure you are that it could never happen there, it absolutely can. A friend told me that when he joined the UMC, he warned them that he would resign if they ever changed the definition of marriage in church law. Everyone laughed because “it could never happen here.” They were wrong. There is, as good ‘ol Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us, a cost to discipleship. That cost is fighting for the faith. Don’t shrink away from heresy and call it “a matter of opinion.” Confront it with love and compassion. Correct it if you can. Leave if you must. But don’t give up. It’s worth it to keep the truth that was entrusted to us by God.
As hard as the battles can be, there comes a day when the battles end and you can beat your swords into plowshares. I found that ending, and I pray that you do too.