January 3, 2020

Two More Liberal Congregations Move Towards Leaving UMC

In October, I reported that “at least eleven liberal United Methodist congregations in five different states, from the Deep South to the far North, have publicly announced that they are taking at least initial steps towards leaving the United Methodist Church.”

Since then, at least two additional liberal congregations, in two additional states, have publicly announced that they are taking steps towards leaving the UMC.

In all 13 cases, these moves are being taken in explicit protest of our denomination’s traditional biblical sexual-morality standards, which no one seriously disputes are consistent with the UMC’s official, constitutionally protected Doctrinal Standards and which the 2019 General Conference re-affirmed last year.

The Church in Ocean Park UMC, a not-huge but growing congregation in Santa Monica, California, unanimously adopted a resolution at its November charge conference declaring “The position of the United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality is in direct conflict with the faith and understandings of the members of the Church in Ocean Park United Methodist Church” and announcing that it was beginning the process to seek disaffiliation from our denomination under the “gracious exits” legislation adopted at the February 2019 General Conference.

The congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Janet McKeithen, reportedly claimed, in reference to the settlement of my complaint against Tarot-practicing lesbian activist minister Anna Blaedel in Iowa, that “This harmful S..t is one reason why we passed this” statement referenced above. But I note that this congregation issued its statement a couple days before the Iowa resolution was announced.

McKeithen has her own public statement thanking the charge conference for passing its statement, declaring for her part that “There is no ‘way back’ at this point, but there is a ‘way forward.’”  At another point, McKeithen says:

“The United Methodist Church is no more.

 No matter what happens in 2020.

 No matter what happens in 2075.

 No matter what happens in 4791.

 The United Methodist Church is no more.*

  This grieves my heart, but it’s a fact. 

 The church that I know and love is gone.

 It is fractured and what happens next is unknown.”

 

The asterix directs to a footnote clarifying: “Note:  The Church in Ocean Park is interfaith, but is hosted by the UMC.  So what happens with the UMC directly impacts the Church in Ocean Park.” Indeed, the congregation’s main website repeatedly describes itself as an “interfaith congregation” rather than an exclusively Christian one, in which Buddhists can appreciate Ash Wednesday rituals while Christians “might love the solstice ritual.” Pastor McKeithen, while an elder in good standing in the California-Pacific Conference, describes herself as “a Christian who resonates with Native American spirituality, and a sprinkling of Buddhist teachings.”

Even many not-terribly conservative traditionalists have recently been shocked to learn of the blatantly non-Christian and interfaith elements of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco.  Evidently, Glide is not the only “interfaith” congregation within the theologically radicalized world of California United Methodism. And after all, the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction made clear in 2016 their overwhelming belief that Dr. Karen Oliveto’s leading Glide outside of what even many liberals would call a Christian identity made her supremely qualified to be bishop.

In Oklahoma City, Mosaic UMC, which is a bit larger than the Church in Ocean Park, later adopted its own public statement decrying our denomination’s failure to secularize our values on marriage and sexual morality. Most of that statement is a lot of the angry pledges of “resistance” of which we have seen much lately.  But notably, this statement says that while its endorsers hope to see the 2020 General Conference liberalize the denomination on sexuality, “If no positive changes are voted in at the 2020 General Conference, we will exit the United Methodist Church.”

Both of these two congregations are already formally affiliated with the LGBTQ liberationist Reconciling Ministries Network.

In addition to these 13 liberal congregations moving towards the exit door, I have no idea how many others may have taken or may be in the process of contemplating such actions.  The liberal “UM Forward” caucus is currently seeking to pull such people together with its “Exilic Community Survey,” but there is no comprehensive public list.

For some years, we have seen some conservative congregations talking about (and sometimes actually) leaving the denomination in frustration over the heavy-handed liberal leadership of much of the UMC hierarchy.

Since February, our denomination has been increasingly on a path in which we can expect to now see liberal congregations leaving.

Many may wonder why a liberal congregation in California would feel the need to leave our denomination on its own, given the clear liberal sympathies of its bishop and the dominant faction of its annual conference. Similar questions have been raised about why conservative congregations in Texas or Mississippi would want to leave on their own.

There are obviously complex factors in any such local decisions.  But in the big picture, these recent moves towards departure underscore that our denomination’s connectionalism matters.  Despite the rhetoric of many liberal leaders implying that we are a Confederate Methodist Church or a Congregationalist Methodist Church, so that the spiritual practices of those in other regions in our denomination are none of our dang business, at the local level, church folk across the theological spectrum see through such spin. We are the United Methodist Church. Major-publicity events in any one part of the denomination directly impact the reputation, trust, and spiritual health of every other part.

The longer our denomination continues to waver between two drastically opposed spiritual paths, and the longer the internal warfare drags on, the more we can expect to see more and more congregations and individuals across the spectrum opt out of the dysfunction and go their own way.


12 Responses to Two More Liberal Congregations Move Towards Leaving UMC

  1. So long, goats! Really hope you repent and believe someday, but in the mean time the believers are better off without you.

  2. John10 says:

    Was this article written before today’s divorce announcement in which the radicals get to keep the UMC name and the LTGB approval? After today, why would a ‘progressive’ congregation feel a need to leave?

  3. bob p says:

    I appreciate your steadfastness and love of biblical truths and the Methodist church.
    The host of “The Vortex”, a pro-Catholic YouTube channel, compared the departure of the faith by those concerned over sexual abuse in the church to those who would leave USA for Canada because of grievances against the US, rather than stay and fight.
    Liberals kill everything they touch. The sooner they separate the better.
    There are plenty of biblical churches who’ll welcome me and my biblical beliefs (and my financial support), while the liberal UMC wants to destroy everything in their extreme virtue signaling.

  4. John Killian says:

    I am a Baptist, so I hope I am not meddling. But if liberals are leaving, shouldn’t this leave conservatives in leadership and able to set policy?

  5. Gary Smith says:

    Buh Bye…..

  6. Palamas says:

    With the reference to Glide in the article, I got curious, and so went to look at their web site. Near as I can tell, there are no references to God, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit on the site, and only one reference to the Scripture (a Bible study listed on the Congregational Life page). A listing of “Leadership” doesn’t mention anyone with any kind of spiritual portfolio (there are two ministers mentioned on a separate page). Truth is, Glide doesn’t even look like a church, but a social welfare agency that holds pep rallies on Sunday morning. I’m sure Karen Oliveto felt right at home.

    • David says:

      The local bishop has refused to appoint any UMC clergy to serve at Glide the last I heard and the senior pastor left shortly after arriving. I attended a concert at Glide perhaps 30-some years ago and was somewhat surprised by the various banners and decorations in the building. It did not seem very church-like to me at the time.

  7. PFSchaffner says:

    “Connectionalism matters” not just with regard to reputation and emotional ties, but financially as well: even if the apportionments are relatively small, many may feel disinclined to give to a local church knowing that some portion — any portion — may go to activities elsewhere within the connection with which they do not wish to be associated. The choices then are: cease giving (but it is wrong to attend a church one is not willing to support); or find another church (which is painful); or detach your church from the connection (which may well seem the easiest option).

  8. John Kay says:

    This is exactly what should happen, and a reason why the plan for separation presented last week should not be supported.

    The fight over this issue is important for the future. No matter how hard it might be to enforce the current Discipline, it is a fight worth having and winning. If the traditionalists leave on their own volition it seems like a statement that our beliefs are not worth defending, and other people will not be willing to take a stand on them either.

    Let the progressives and centrists be true to their beliefs and leave if they do not like what the denomination stands for. They are the ones who brought this crisis on, they are the ones using the scorched-earth political tactics the secular left uses, why should we surrender?

  9. Bruce says:

    I was raised in the United Methodist Church (6th generation) but departed many years back when I came to the realization that Christ and His Apostles (including the early Church Fathers — as well as John Wesley) would not recognize a significant number of the modern UM Churches as being ‘Christian.’

    It appeared to me that the UMC was on the same track as the Episcopal Church — to become Apostate. Retaining the trappings/liturgy of a Christian Church but denying the clear Moral and Doctrinal teachings of Scripture and replacing them with those of the fallen Culture (similar to many of the Hebrews who once professed YHWH abandoning Him to worship at the feet of the false Canaanite god, Baal).

    “Liberal” (really, Heretical) Congregations leaving is perhaps a case of the Goats separating *themselves* from the Sheep.

    Some decades ago the Southern Baptists were able to halt a Liberal take-over in progress. They were able to oust the Liberals/Heretics (who were denying the Virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the Bodily Resurrection, the Inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit, etc.) from their Seminaries and Leadership and recapture their Founder’s Biblical Theology/Orthodoxy.

    I hope the UMC can do the same, but it’s too late for me. The UMC downward spiral should have been dealt with years ago.

  10. Elaine Miller says:

    Down the street from OKC’s Mosaic UMC is the church where I grew up: Grace UMC. After 60 years, the leadership of the church just voted yesterday to close its doors. This decision follows a multitude of “unfortunate circumstances,” one of which, I believe, was yielding to LGBTQ bullying. I have not been a part of this community of faith for many years, as we departed when Scripture was no longer authoritative (nor even held in high regard). While I’m still “officially” a United Methodist, it seems many who call themselves such may not be Christian(s) at all?

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