As many of you are aware, the United Methodist Church is at a crossroads. The United Methodist Church’s General Conference will be held from August 29-September 7, 2021. It is at this conference that representatives from the global United Methodist Church will vote on whether to adopt the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation – an official document created by a group of leaders, comprising various constituencies of the Church, who came together in an effort to reach a gracious and dignified resolution of the impasse. The major constituency groups in the United Methodist Church, have all supported the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.
Recently, a group of people in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church formed a coalition of persons known as StayUMC who believe it is best for United Methodists in North Alabama to stay with the new iteration of United Methodism known as the Post-Separation United Methodist Church rather than the new, traditionally orthodox, global Methodist Church that will be birthed out of the protocol.
Dramatic changes are on the horizon with the adoption of the Protocol. The existing United Methodist Church will no longer be the same as she departs from mainstream Christian teaching regarding human sexuality. The church you have been a part of will no longer align with the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, or the majority of Christians around the world.
Because the Protocol proposes an official pathway for restructuring and separation, a new global Methodist Church is currently being planned. This new Methodist denomination will be committed to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition. Annual conferences, churches, and clergy will be given opportunity to align with the new Methodist denomination through the steps created by the Protocol.
The following letter, signed by numerous pastors and lay leaders who favor the North Alabama Conference joining the new Global Methodist denomination, is intended to inform the laity of the United Methodist Churches of North Alabama regarding all the facts in regard to the protocol and the decisions that will potentially come before our Annual Conference and local churches in the days to come.
As we move into the future, we would like to take the opportunity to provide some information that will help you better understand the coming changes:
The Post-Separation United Methodist Church will not be the church you have always known.
When persons say, “Let’s stay United Methodists in North Alabama,” we must understand that the post-separation United Methodist Church will not be what we have known before. Her Book of Discipline, the book that outlines the key beliefs that unify Methodist practices and way of life, will change. What we often refer to as the “post-separation United Methodist Church” will be different than the United Methodist Church we have known in our lifetimes.
The post-separation United Methodist Church will also be a future denomination that will adopt a doctrine reflecting western values rather than sound Christian doctrine. For a people called Methodists, this step will be unprecedented in 200 years of Wesleyan theology and 2,000 years of Christian history. It will defy what is considered orthodox interpretations of Scripture by the majority of Christians around the world.
The Post-Separation United Methodist Church will redefine Christian marriage.
We encourage you to do your own research regarding how the New Testament describes marriage. Bible concordances or even a Google search are great places to start. Most people, including persons who are not Christians, recognize that the Christian Scriptures describe marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Jesus said, “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9 (NIV)
There is no biblical support for redefining Christian marriage as being anything other than marriage between a man and a woman. There is no biblical support for defining marriage as being between two men or two women.
As Methodist Christians, we believe Scripture is our authority. This means we should not take authority over the Scriptures and then label it “Christian doctrine” for the church.
The post-separation United Methodist Church has gone on record stating that they intend to redefine marriage as a part of their new church structure. The United Methodist Church you have known in the past will not be the United Methodist Church that is ahead for you in the future. You must ask yourself if that is a change you are willing to make.
The Post-Separation United Methodist Church will be viewed differently by the Church around the world and by many members of your community.
In 2016, the Episcopal Church in America abandoned Scriptural authority and church teachings on the definitions of marriage and ordination standards. As a result, the worldwide Anglican Communion censured (expressed disapproval of) the Episcopal Church in America. This is one example of how participating in changing the definition of Christian marriage represents a departure from the faith of the majority of Christians worldwide.
The overwhelming majority of our Methodist sisters and brothers in Africa have expressed their convictions regarding the United Methodist Church needing to remain under the Scriptures’ authority. One of the African United Methodist church leaders famously said to North American United Methodist leaders, “The gospel you brought to us one hundred years ago, is not the same gospel you are proclaiming now.” (Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah)
You and your family may be familiar with community Christian gatherings, such as joint Thanksgiving services. Every year for the last 30 years many Methodist Churches come together with other denominations in this way. After the post-separation United Methodist Church redefines marriage, the United Methodist Church you have known will have undergone a significant change and will have a new reputation of abandoning the authority of Scripture. We already have United Methodist churches in North Alabama communities that are experiencing hesitation from other churches in coming together for community worship gatherings based on perceptions of United Methodists adopting a non-biblical sexual ethic.
We respect the right of persons who wish to remain in the post-separation United Methodist Church. We encourage local United Methodist church leaders, particularly those relatively unfamiliar with the impasse that has brought the church to separation, to visit websites like Mainstream UMC, Reconciling Ministries Network, UM-Forward, and UMC Next. On these sites you can learn about centrist and progressive proposals. Here you will find descriptions of how the post-separated United Methodist Church will not be the United Methodist Church you have known in the past.
In preparation for the future, several thousand United Methodists gathered in Chicago in 2016 to form the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). The WCA was formed to connect Spirit-ﬁlled, orthodox churches, clergy, and laity who hold to Wesleyan theology. It is an association, or network of individuals and congregations, who share a common understanding of our Wesleyan doctrine and desire to become a vibrant, faithful, growing 21st-century church. The WCA sees itself as a midwife in birthing a new Methodist denomination, so that traditionally orthodox United Methodist Christians will have a church in the future.
To that end, we encourage congregations to purchase A Firm Foundation and its companion DVD so that leadership teams and small groups may study and be well informed. Produced in 2017, this resource will help local church members understand the fundamental issues at stake as we prepare for the future. We also recommend Are We Really Better Together?, a book that helps congregants see that divisions in the United Methodist Church run deeper than human sexuality, teachings on marriage, and ordination standards.
And for all persons who care about the future of the church, now is the time to strongly encourage fellow church members to sign-up for the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Outlook, to study the association’s website for critical information and documents, and to become a WCA member, both individually and as a church.
Rev. Dr. Trav Wilson
*If you would like to view the StayUMC website, you can do so by clicking here.