UMC Split

Understanding the United Methodist Church Split: How We Got Here, the Basics of the Protocol, and the Choices Ahead

John Lomperis on February 8, 2021

Having trouble understanding the United Methodist Church split? At the invitation of Pastor Jan Dillard, president of the Missouri chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), I recently delivered the following speech and PowerPoint presentation outlining the long history of breakdown in discipline and doctrine that has led to our current point of separation, the basics of the widely supported “Protocol” deal to split the denomination, and the nature of the choice with which each conference and congregation in our denomination will soon be faced. 

(Choosing to not vote is itself a choice, which results in someone else making the choice for you as to which of the two new emerging denominations you will belong.) 

For those who prefer reading written content, I earlier posted a slightly adapted text of the main, historical part of my remarks, which you can read here

For those of you who prefer multimedia, a video of my presentation is below:

(You can view a larger display of this video if you click on the “YouTube” logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the video above.) 

Watching this video, with its handy visuals, can be helpful for any United Methodist congregation, Sunday school class, or individual member seeking a user-friendly explanation of the nature, terms, and necessary choices of the UMC split. 

Alternatively, you can listen to or download an audio-only version below, but this lacks the visual presentation of my PowerPoint:

Given all of the tensions, controversies, and misinformation surrounding the UMC split, it is important to not simply believe everything we hear.  Below are some sources providing documentation for key facts noted in my presentation:

Riley B. Case, Evangelical & Methodist: A Popular History (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2004).

Ron Grossman, “Methodist Bishop Cleared of Heresy.” Chicago Tribune 19 February 2003.

John Lomperis, “Karen Oliveto’s Theology of Criticizing Jesus, Defending Demon Possession.” Institute on Religion & Democracy, 16 July 2016.

John Lomperis, “Lesbian ‘Bishop’ Karen Oliveto Warns to Not ‘Create an Idol Out of’ Jesus, Says He Had ‘Bigotries and Prejudices’ (UPDATED).” Institute on Religion & Democracy, 15 September 2017.

Leander W. Munhall, Breakers! Methodism Adrift (New York: C.C. Cook, 1913).

Protocol on Reconciliation and Grace through Separation:

  1. Comment by Pirate Preacher on February 8, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Thanks for the explanation. I am struck by how committed the traditional / conservative / evangelical side is to following the process. The 2020 General Conference that is now scheduled for Aug. 29 – Sept. 7, 2021 will probably be postponed again due to COVID. Those who hold to the Good News of Christ have placed their future into the hands of those who would prefer they simply go away. If I were to council those seeking a split, I would follow the lessons from the example of Abraham.

    When the families of Abraham and Lot could not live together because, “there was quarreling between the “members” of Abram’s “flock” and between the “members” of Lot’s “flock”, Abram said unto Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.'”

    Though there is a great divide among doctrine, to a large degree this is a family split. We would do well to remember that those who suffer most from divorce are the children. Often, the parent who demonstrates the most grace, love, and mercy is the one the children ultimately gravitate towards.

    If they insist, let the Post UMC denomination have all the assets. In this new COVID world any new denomination only needs Zoom or some other streaming tool. If there ever comes a time when a congregation needs a building, then pray and see how God will provide.

    Act in love. Act with integrity. Act now.

  2. Comment by Angelo B. on February 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    I do not understand the excitement about his split.
    That Separation Plan is really an incredible bad deal.
    The amazing thing is that Traditionalists are the majority of the total worlwide membership.

  3. Comment by Steve Duncan on February 8, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    My take on this issue, the United Methodist church, as well a majority of Protestant churches have a declining membership in America. Radical theology is becoming the norm in these latter days when Satan knows that the return of Christ is near. None of these Protestant churches claim to have a leader to correct false doctrine as the ancient apostles constantly encountered. So don’t be surprised that all these churches with conflicting doctrines will continue to decline. Then in time a leader will arise and bring “Christianity” into one church. Which brings up the question, is the United Methodist Church the same church as Christ organized as recorded in the Bible? If not then it doesn’t matter who claims to be their leader. But if it claims to be the same Church that Jesus organized, then it must teach absolute truth with a gospel that comes in power and in the Holy Ghost and divine revelation from the heavens without debate. I think you know the answer.

  4. Comment by John67 on February 9, 2021 at 6:46 am

    Angelo B,
    Traditionalists are the majority world wide only if you count African and Philippine votes equal to American votes. “It’s not who votes but who counts the votes that matters.”

  5. Comment by Marc H. on February 9, 2021 at 11:21 am

    An excellent column. A recent Pew poll found that American Christians live essentially just like their secular neighbors. Christians cohabitate, divorce, have affairs and abortions at similar rates as all other Americans. Something has been wrong with American Christianity for a long time. None of these subjects has ever been broached in my UM church. The doctrinal keepers of our faith have always been the Orthodox Christians. Us Protestants like to think Christianity began in the 1500s, but we are mistaken.

  6. Comment by walter pryor on February 12, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    This is nothing new. Humans have a hard time humbling themselves to God. What God is in the process of doing is separating the goats from the sheep. God is polarizing this world into two groups, those who are His and all others. His group will be very visible to the world and will become the group all hate is blamed on. His group will be persecuted and abused, then the harpazo. I feel sorry for those who think they can defy God. Who can any human become so arrogant and proud? I guess if your mind is filled with lust, sin, and the Devil’s doctrine it is easy? Let be about the Lords work and forget these people. They had their chance, now most of them will spend eternity in hell, in the lake of fire. Someone should have told them that decades ago, maybe they would have repented then? But when you pander to evil it always gets worse. We need to follow the Bible when we find sinners in the family. Too bad the leaders did not do that decades ago?

  7. Comment by Alice DeBoer on February 14, 2021 at 7:37 pm

    Do we have any idea how the new “Traditionalist” branch of Methodism will handle pastoral appointments? We have been sorely dissatisfied with some of the appointments made to our congregation over the last 25 years. We know that keeping Pastors moving is the Methodist way, but these experiences have us questioning whether we feel comfortable remaining in the church at all. My roots in this church are deep and I hope they can remain rooted!

  8. Comment by John Lomperis on February 16, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Good question, Alice. Ultimately, it will be up to those who actually join the new traditionlaist Methodist denomination to decide the policies for how we want to be governed. That said, there is STRONG movement among plans for this denomination to give each local congregation much greater say in matters like which pastors they get sent and get to keep.

  9. Comment by Lee Cary on June 18, 2021 at 9:33 am

    This is, by far, the very best article I’ve read on this site.

    Lomperis’ explanation is historically accurate and thorough. I witnessed the evolution (devolution) from 1972-1997. And what I sensed and saw was exactly as Lomperis chronicles.

    Rather than stay and fight a losing battle, (having done that already in Vietnam) I retired as soon as I could. And am glad I did.

    And, the near same battle is now underway for the entire Republic.

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