Not with a bang, but a whimper

In his address to the United Methodist Church House of Bishops, incoming President, Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton  acknowledged the de facto schism of that church resulting from the launch of the Global Methodist Church on Sunday May 1st.

In his address, Bishop Bickerton called on the United Methodists to commit to “spending most of our time positioning our church for the next chapter of our life together: talking about the movement of the spirit in our midst, the exciting days that lie ahead, and the joy we will have being able to live out our calling to preach the Good News of God’s love rather than the bad news of what’s happening to us in the current moment.”

“This is our church – let us claim it, guard it, preserve it, and use it to bless generations for years to come just as we were blessed by those who came before us.”

Referring to the launch of the Global Methodist Church on May 1, Bishop Bickerton called for the re-launch of the UMC.   “In the midst of the heartache of separation, let us launch and proclaim once again a unity of purpose and ministry together. In the midst of legal documents and term sheets, let us launch and affirm the reality that United Methodists are bible-based, faith-driven, mission focused, and global in scope,” Bishop Bickerton said.

He urged United Methodists to be hopeful: “Let’s get out of the boat of our malaise, the boat of our current dilemma, and let us walk, no, run on the water keeping our eyes focused on the only one who can calm our anxious spirits, focus our blurry eyes, and point us in the direction that will lead to us once again to strength, relevancy, and joy.”

The breakup was long expected to be enacted at the General Conference scheduled for 2020 that was postponed. After being pushed out again to 2024, those opposed to full inclusion ran out of patience and opted to go ahead and launch their new church.

On its website, the Global Methodist Church states;

The Global Methodist Church will launch on May 1, 2022.

United Methodist Church leaders have failed to make timely arrangements for holding a General Conference in 2022, and so have postponed it for a third time. Therefore, the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, a plan that would have resulted in an amicable and orderly separation will not be adopted until at least 2024. The Transitional Leadership Council determined it must launch the Global Methodist Church this year so local churches, annual conferences, and central conferences wanting to join it could do so as soon as possible.

One of the leaders of this new church, Bishop J. Michael Lowry, who recently retired as bishop of the Central Texas Conference wrote, in words that will be depressingly familiar to Episcopalians who experienced the schism in our own church, that the issue isn’t LGBT+ persons, per se, but fidelity to the gospel imperative.

The presenting issue, characterized by a dispute over our understanding of human sexuality, more specifically whether or not clergy should be allowed to perform same-gender marriages and whether it is permissible to ordain “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” masks the deeper and truly significant disagreement over what constitutes fidelity to the historic confession of the Christian faith expressed in the normative nature of Holy Scripture as the primary rule of faith, the ecumenical creeds, the Articles of Religion, and Wesley’s Standard Sermons.  Put succinctly, the massive iceberg beneath the roiling waters of our looming separation is the ongoing argument over just what constitutes the theological and moral foundations of contemporary Methodism.

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