Updated: Apr 3
By Rev. Dr. Bob Kaylor
January 17, 2023
With the turn of the new year, my social media feed is filled with announcements from churches that have successfully disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church and joined the new Global Methodist Church. Those posts usually consist of joyous tones and pictures of new signs being placed in front of local churches. Other posts excitedly tout new transitional annual conferences being formed and new churches springing up. It’s a giddy time for the new traditional expression of Methodism that many of us have labored long and hard to form with God’s help.
But there are other posts that are a lot less joyous—strained and pained posts from pastors and laity whose churches did not reach the two-thirds vote threshold for disaffiliation and who are now facing an uncertain future. Laity write about how they can no longer stay in their local church because it has decided to remain in a denomination that doesn’t reflect their theological and ethical values. Pastors express deep concern about their own futures as the local church they have faithfully served for years goes in a different direction. Clusters of laypersons who have left their UMC churches wonder where they’ll worship or, if they’re still banded together, how they might be able to start a new church in their area, while disaffected pastors consider the possibility of relocation or ponder retooling their skill sets to become church planters. Others are gridlocked in their UMC annual conferences by onerous requirements and costs or by the refusal of denominational leaders to let them go peacefully.
Looking at these various reactions in my feed every day I can’t help but think of the Old Testament stories of Israel standing on the banks of the Jordan River as the people were about to enter the Promised Land. There is the joy and excitement of those who are successfully crossing over to the land of milk and honey with God’s help, and with Joshuas to lead them; but there are also many who feel more like Moses, waving farewell from Mount Nebo while pondering the prospect of staying permanently planted in the desert.
The WCA Pathways Task Force was created to help those who are currently stuck on the wrong side of the river find their way to a new and hopeful future. Our mission is to provide resources for clergy and laity who are “left behind” in the UMC because their church did not approve disaffiliation. Those resources include information on:
Dealing with conflict within churches over disaffiliation votes
Discerning next steps for disaffected clergy and laity
Resources and guidance for starting new churches
Pathways into the Global Methodist Church for clergy seeking new appointments
Emotional and vocational support for clergy who may need to change jobs or move into a different sort of ministry (bivocational, etc.)
Theological help for those who will remain in the UMC
The task force held a Town Hall meeting in November 2022 where we solicited input from disaffected clergy and laity concerning questions and needs for this season. As a result of that Town Hall meeting, we decided to group that input into four main categories and then offer a series of four webinars designed to provide information and an opportunity for pastors and laity to ask questions of those who can guide them in the right direction. Each live webinar will be recorded and later uploaded as a series of episodes for the WCA’s “Holy Conversations” podcast where they can be widely shared.
The schedule of webinars is as follows:
Church Starts and Restarts (Tuesday, January 24 at 7:00pm Eastern). Kenny Ott from The River Network, the GMC’s church planting partner, will join us to talk about the process of starting or restarting new GMC churches and how groups of laity and pastors can begin discerning and training for a successful launch in their communities.
Pathways into the Global Methodist Church (Thursday, January 26 at 7:00pm Eastern). Angela Pleasants, the GMC’s Director of Clergy and Church Relations, will join us to discuss the process for pastors and churches to join the GMC, how the new denomination is connecting open pastoral appointments with available clergy, how benefits work in the new denomination, and a host of other issues related to connecting with the Global Methodist Church.
Dealing with the Fallout (Thursday, February 2 at 7:00pm Eastern). Licensed therapist Joel Watts will guide us through a discussion about handing conflict in your local church in the wake of disaffiliation votes and how to take care of yourself in times of stress and uncertainty.
Remaining in the UMC (Thursday, February 9 at 7:00pm Eastern). We know that some traditional Methodists will either be forced to or choose to remain in the UMC after 2023 for many different reasons. The biblical paradigm of the faithful remnant is a model for those who will stay. Join us for a panel discussion on how to remain theologically grounded in a changing environment and culture.
You can register for these webinars by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org where you’ll receive a link to the Zoom conference. We’ll also send out a list of resources provided by our guests to all who register. A recording of each webinar will be available the next day on the Holy Conversations podcast.
Armed with information and encouragement, we’re hopeful that all of our 2023 social media posts will reflect confidence in the future as God leads us into whatever Promised Land he has prepared for us and for our churches.
The Rev. Dr. Bob Kaylor is lead pastor of Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church in Monument, Colorado and a member of the WCA’s Global Council.
East Ohio WCA is not affiliated with the East Ohio UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.
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