Methodist Church Split: Tempers Flare

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As the United Methodist Church is rocked by disagreement along progressive versus traditional battle lines, more than 4,876 congregations have sprinted away from the denomination to date. The dam has burst, and the floodgates have opened wide. It’s like a fire sale with parishioners grabbing goods off the shelves and getting out of dodge while they still can.

Are these churches running away from something or towards something? The answer is both. According to Jay Therrell, President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a leader in the “disaffiliation” movement, the running away piece stems from the United Methodists Church’s abandonment of “the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Christ, which has deteriorated for many, many years.”

What about the running towards something piece? Where are they going? Many are heading towards the more theologically conservative Global Methodist Church, founded in 2022 with the help of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and now numbers approximately 3,000 congregations.

I believe in Advocacy

What’s my role in all this? After all, I’m a pastor in another denomination. But sometimes, it’s voices from the outside that help most. Especially when it comes to advocating on behalf of another. And yes, I will use a little ole lady as an example, Mrs. May. And I assure you, Mrs. May isn’t alone; tens of thousands of life-long Methodists like her are utterly crushed by what’s happening to their denomination. It’s playing out towns near you. I’ll build my thoughts on three verses attributed to people just like her:

  • Carry each other’s burdens; this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2


  • Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Proverbs 31:8


  • And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say he shall not lose his reward. Matthew 10:42

Within the greater Birmingham area, a large United Methodist Church stands in the heart of Alabama. It’s surrounded by the most picturesque southern setting you could imagine. Each Sunday, on the third row, sits my friend’s grandmother, Mrs. May, who’s poured her heart and soul into the church body since childhood. Her involvement, in part, looks like this:

  • Taught 5th grade Sunday school for over half a century
  • Volunteered at 60 + Vacation Bible Schools
  • She exchanged vows with her husband
  • Witnessed thousands of baptisms and confirmations, not only of kids she taught and doted on but her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
  • Grieved at her daughter’s funeral, and her husband’s, among many others
  • Celebrated 70 Easter Sunrise Services, and four times as many Advent Candle Lighting Ceremonies
  • Volunteered at countless picnics on the grounds, 5th Sunday dinners, and church bazaars.

But things have changed since then, slowly at first, but now like a juggernaut progressing at a record-breaking speed.

A Seat at the Cool Table

You may remember a kid in Jr. High who kept dying to sit at the cool table. If it took speaking, acting, or looking a certain way to earn a seat, even at the cost of one’s integrity, they jumped at the chance. Watching this Methodist Church’s virtual worship services, it’s like the cool tables are being flooded at all costs at the expense of Scripture’s integrity. For example, “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy Name” gets chunked by the leadership, only to be replaced with “Our Father/Mother who art in heaven.” Whoa! The man who led the prayer does come across as light-hearted; I’ll give him that. I’m betting even he could admit the silliness of his self-imposed irony—he led off with, “Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, saying, ‘Our Father/Mother who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.'”

As for the Person of Jesus, they’ve tried to reclassify Him too. Now they call him “The Universal Child.” So much for the ways Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man” or “the Son of God,” Those are just two examples of the wackiness. You can imagine how it goes from there. It makes me feel compromised even putting those into print, so we better move on. You get the point.

Now back to Mrs. May– you tell me, as a faithful servant of Christ for all those years in her church, what’s Mrs. May supposed to do at her age (82) when the leadership tries to re-designate God? Is she to walk away quietly, leaving behind a lifetime of memories? Like the pew she’s always felt at home in? Or the sanctuary itself with stained glassed windows renowned for their precision and beauty? What about the classrooms and hallways? Even the smells take her back to her childhood. And despite undergoing numerous renovations, much of the wall decorations have remained as they were. Like the Great Shepherd leading the flock, tending to a lamb in His arms. Or Jesus looking to heaven in a praying posture?

LIt’s all so familiar. So near. Such pleasant memories. Imagine how painful it would be for her to leave. “I’m not leaving my church; it left me long ago,” she confidently assures others, but the sting still persists.

Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first. – Jesus

Yeah, I’m advocating for her. And quite frankly, I’m not sure what that should look like. But sticking our head’s in the sand while she and many others are being assured out of their lifelong church homes…that’s unacceptable. I like sometimes leaving the conversation open-ended. Ask anyone who’s been involved in a church split; they’re brutal. Some liken them to a divorce. It’s not always easy deciding what to do when you’re on the inside. But maybe with enough kind voices pleading with church leaders across the country who’ve left their first loves, “Please don’t overlook the Mrs. Mays on the third row.” That, according to Jesus, would be nothing short of unkind. They deserve much better.

My new book “Inerrancy” is an unashamed affirmation of the truth of Scripture and its importance to the future of God’s Church. It’s also a reminder that compromise is a slippery slope―that Christians and churches who sacrifice Scripture on the altar of cultural relevance will eventually find themselves conceding principle after principle until their reason for existence is left behind. I encourage each of you to equip yourselves to be part of this historic conversation. Order now on Amazon! Or grab the first chapter free here!


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