disaffiliate from United Methodism

Exiting United Methodism Now

Mark Tooley on August 5, 2022

An old friend phoned yesterday to say his large downtown church had just voted to disaffiliate from United Methodism by a 96% congregational vote. I was very surprised, having visited there years ago when the pastor was very institutionalist. He said the current pastor is robustly orthodox. My friend, who previously served on the board of a national United Methodist agency, which had made him cynical about the denomination, said he now felt he had his church back.

It’s time for Methodists to get their churches back, and I’m not just referring to traditionalists, conservatives and evangelicals. Everyone who’s tired of control and manipulation by the dysfunctional and bloated bureaucracy of a dying denomination must take advantage of this opportunity to liberate their congregation.

United Methodist properties are owned by the denomination. But the 2019 Conference ratified an exceptional law, expiring next year, allowing churches to vote themselves out of the denomination. They retain their property and pay two years worth of apportionments plus clergy pension liabilities. One church member recently told his pastor that their amount equals what he spends on a new truck, which he considered a bargain. (Sadly, some resentful bishops, like expiring vampires before the dawn, are adding exorbitant surcharges, which for some churches may require litigation.)

Yes, liberation from an imploding denomination is a bargain at almost any price. USA United Methodism is dying. It’s lost 5 million members and as of 2020 was losing 200,000 members annually. The pandemic, during which thousands of churches closed for much of if not more than a year, and the unfolding schism will dramatically accelerate this loss. The average age for United Methodists is near 60 and climbing. USA United Methodism is over 90% white and incapable of reaching non-whites and immigrants. United Methodism has almost no capacity to plant successful new churches. Instead, it closes hundreds of churches annually.

United Methodism has an unsustainable 1960s bureaucracy built for a church that had 11 million in the USA but now has 6 million. It spent $114 million in 2020 on its national bureaucracy including $60 million on church agencies and nearly 20 million on bishops plus $14 million on education, mainly seminaries. How does this huge bureaucracy serve the local church? The seminaries, agencies and most USA bishops ignore Methodist historic and official beliefs. Instead they focus on self perpetuation, revisionist theology and politics. They have no interest in evangelism, reversing 58 years of continuous church decline, or meaningfully helping local churches.

There are also the wasteful bureaucracies of the annual conferences and local districts, sustaining nearly 50 USA bishops and hundreds of district superintendents. What do they do for local churches and the Gospel? And United Methodism has nearly 40,000 clergy who are guaranteed nearly lifetime employment regardless of competence. They are mostly not trained in sound Methodist doctrine or evangelism. The seminaries marinate them in identity politics and revisionist theology irrelevant and often destructive to local churches. Many of these clergy are themselves victims, having been instructed in a false reality by their seminaries, boards of ordained ministry and bishops.

Of course, thousands of clergy minister faithfully, sacrificially and effectively, for which they are often sidelined or punished by the bishops and church bureaucracy, who resent their success and fidelity to official doctrine. Thriving pastorates are often replaced by successors who reject orthodox teaching and extinguish the fruit of their predecessors.

In this vein, dying USA United Methodism ignores if not disdains lessons from growing churches in other communions and even growing United Methodist churches in Africa. Our denomination is proudly content to die.

There’s no reason anybody who wishes well for their local United Methodist church should wish to stay affiliated with the dying denomination that hangs about their necks like an albatross. Why pay thousands if not tens or even hundreds of thousands annually to a destructive bureaucracy extolling causes against Methodist teaching? Why be subject to a bishop who does not share your beliefs or even wish you well? Why allow your property to remain hostage to an unreliable denomination that has the power to seize your property and close your congregation? Why allow your pastor to be imposed on you by an outside force without regard to fidelity, competence or suitability?

If your congregation leaves United Methodism by next year’s deadline under paragraph 2553 you will own your church property, have authority over your next pastoral appointment, no longer subsidize the United Methodist bureaucracy, and be able to plan for a hopeful future. You can join the new Global Methodist Church, or any other denomination. You can remain independent, though I hope you don’t. You can work to proclaim the Gospel without interference from a dying denomination.

Americans care less and less about denominations. Old multigenerational loyalties to denominations are largely over. Church goers now expect churches to earn their loyalty. Exiting dying United Methodism will empower congregations to meet this expectation.

Mostly traditionalists, conservatives and evangelicals are exiting United Methodism. But anyone who cares about competence, accountability and hope for the future should exit. Begin the process now. Time is short. United Methodism as a sprawling USA 1960s bureaucracy is dying. But Methodism as a movement, unchained from that expiring behemoth, can now anticipate some of its best days.

  1. Comment by Matt on August 5, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    Wow! Boom! Wish this was merely hyperbole, but unfortunately it isn’t. God is moving and an awakening is occurring today in Methodism

  2. Comment by Reynolds on August 5, 2022 at 9:43 pm

    Mark,

    I hate to say I told you so but I told you so. They were never going to vote on the Protocol. They are going to fight every church that leaves make them pay like Mt Bethel. You should ask the Baptist how they won. The question now is are you willing to fight or not. The is and never will be a peaceful settlement

  3. Comment by Steve on August 5, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    The GMC must not be getting the response they expected. This is the second article in a week about “time running out” to leave the UMC and join the GMC. Hurry churches! Hurry!!

    Of course, there are other options that negate the need to “rush.” There are other disaffiliation options in the BOD to join another denomination, such as the Free Methodists. Those options do not sunset in a year like 2553. Of course, the GMC is not one of the denominations a UMC church can join using those other options because there is no agreement set up with the UMC – because the GMC is still forming and doesn’t even have a set BOD yet.

    Of course, another option is to fight back as Reynolds suggests. That is the option for churches who don’t want to pay to leave a denomination that is more traditional than progressive to join a denomination that is more traditional than progressive.

    So, time is not short. There are other options. It’s just the GMC doesn’t benefit from them.

  4. Comment by Mark Tooley on August 5, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    Bishops have asked Judicial Council to clarify what you cite: https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/bishops-seek-ruling-on-application-and-meaning-on-paragraph-2548-2-16497213

  5. Comment by David Gingrich on August 6, 2022 at 7:15 am

    I am struck by the similarities between the bloated UMC hierarchy and the bloated Federal government hierarchy. Such concentrated power and money are bad for humanity.

  6. Comment by David on August 6, 2022 at 8:58 am

    Back in 2014, the Pew Research people did a profile of the UMC. The demographics found were that nearly 2/3’s of the membership was over age 50 and 1/3 over age 65. Obviously, the older segment of the membership is not going to be around forever and this was likely accelerated by the Covid pandemic that proved especially dangerous for seniors. There are fewer young people today in the US and many school districts are noting a decline in students. Thus the UMC membership loss has a strong demographic component.

    This same study also showed that 58% of UMC members favored abortion rights in almost all cases and 60% were favorable toward gay rights.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/religious-denomination/united-methodist-church/#social-and-political-views

  7. Comment by Steve on August 6, 2022 at 1:17 pm

    David,

    I don’t know if those numbers would be the same today, post-COVID. However, they should be considered.

    Gallop released a poll a couple of months ago that shows a significant decline in youth professing as Christian. Membership numbers are declining in most denominations at differing rates. However, the greatest decrease in membership is in progressive denominations. The slowest decline, and in some cases increase, are in traditional denominations. In fact, the young that are joining churches are joining traditional churches at a greater rate than other denominations, such as the increase in Pentecostal denominations. They are not joining progressive denominations at a rate to significantly offset the decline in those denominations.

    I have also seen a poll, but I can’t recall where, that indicated that homosexuals are joining the Catholic Church at an increased rate compared to any other church. So, they are willing to join a church that bans same-sex marriage but is traditional – to some extent.

    The numbers you posted about UMC members supporting abortion and gay rights can be very subjective and limits drawing a reliable conclusion. For example, I would think more UMC members would support gay rights. Being married in a UMC church or being UMC clergy is not a “gay right” to me. Especially, when there are thousands of churches they can get married and be clergy in. They are not excluded from being a part of the Christian Church. So I support gay rights but that has no relation to my view of marriage and clergy in the UMC.

  8. Comment by Dan on August 6, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    If this is your opinion of United Methodism, you need to get out more.

  9. Comment by td on August 6, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    Is there even one church leaving that has an appointed pastor that does not approve of and has spearheaded the leaving? It appears to me that the number of churches that would actually leave is directly related to the number of traditional pastors. That number may be high in the southeast, but there are few traditional pastors elsewhere.

    And…well hardly anyone knows of this upcoming deadline. And with district superintendents needing to get this done at an all church council, the bureaucracy has these churches in its pocket. Good luck.

  10. Comment by Steve on August 6, 2022 at 8:24 pm

    td,

    Most traditional clergy in my conference (I’m in the southeast) are waiting to see what happens at GC before they move forward with leaving. Our conference is allowing the churches who want to leave after the 2553 deadline to leave using the other options in the BOD with the same financial requirements as 2553 (or better given the pension reevaluation that will take place in January and most likely lower the pension liability). Most of the churches that have left have either gone independent, or joined another established Wesleyan denomination, and some are considering joining that new Foundery Network of traditional Methodist churches (I think that’s what it’s called). Few are going GMC. But most are waiting to see what the UMC does at GC.

  11. Comment by Rev. Dr. Lee D Cary (ret. UM clergy) on August 6, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    “Mostly traditionalists, conservatives and evangelicals are exiting United Methodism. But anyone who cares about competence, accountability and hope for the future should exit. Begin the process now. Time is short. United Methodism as a sprawling USA 1960s bureaucracy is dying. But Methodism as a movement, unchained from that expiring behemoth, can now anticipate some of its best days.”

    The IRD has awakened to the reality that is the demise of the UMC. Welcome to the party.

    In the 1960’s the institution was already taking on the patina of a dying bureaucracy, Mark. I watched is worsen. The Methodist movement, which isn’t a “movement”, will have to reinvent itself in a growing competitive religious environment.

    How is that going to happen?

  12. Comment by Tom Morgan on August 6, 2022 at 9:33 pm

    Real problem with dying denomination is laity and pastors that would rather complain than roll up their sleeves and create disciples of Jesus.

  13. Comment by John E. Harnish on August 6, 2022 at 10:54 pm

    A pathetic, exaggerated and cynical critique by a person who has been attacking the UMC for decades. If you have to stoop to this, you must be panicking about the small number of churches which are disaffiliating.

  14. Comment by David on August 7, 2022 at 11:52 am

    There is one “denomination” that is growing at a fast rate.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/585764-the-fastest-growing-us-religious-affiliation-none-poll-says/

  15. Comment by Gary Bebop on August 7, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    There has been a game changer: lower pension liability numbers. Now there are many more churches scrutinizing their chances of escape from a dysfunctional and dying UMC. The crowd is gathering near the exits. Momentum has gone over to the GMC while you were getting your hot dog and soda.

  16. Comment by Mark Siegman on August 7, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    Sadly, with the exception of the deadline, you could substitute “Presbyterian Church (USA)” for “United Methodist Church”, and everything else would apply. When the church conforms to the world, rather than changing the world, decline is inevitable.

  17. Comment by Stephanie Jenkins on August 7, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    The bureacracies of all the denominations are a waste of precious resources. They have too much free time to come up with crazy woke ideas. Most should be eliminated.

  18. Comment by td on August 7, 2022 at 6:55 pm

    Steve- thanks for the response. I think the southeast is probably the exception to what is occurring everywhere else. My point was that there few traditional pastors in most annual conferences in the US, and the large majority of non-traditional pastors and their district superintendants will most decidedly not be alerting their laity to an upcoming deadline. By and large, traditionalists who do not wish to leave are going to be at the mercy of the liberal bishops and clergy.

    It appears their only lifeline would be if the african churches can exert enough force to let traditional churches easily leave (including themselves). But that begs the question of if they had enough power to do that, why couldn’t they completely reform the whole institution?

  19. Comment by Charles Whatley on August 7, 2022 at 9:02 pm

    Before anyone jumps into another controlling denomination; it might be a good idea to explore all the options.

    Our church joined the Association of Independent Methodist (aim2020.com) which gave us the right to use the word “methodist” in our new name (forbidden by the disaffiliation contract unless the church joins an association or denomination using “methodist” in its name) and enables us to enjoy the benefits of being part of a Wesleyan group without any of the pitfalls of joining another denomination.

  20. Comment by David Mu on August 8, 2022 at 11:14 am

    The trouble is – the future of organized Christianity (at least – the USA) is outside the denomination. More and more – people aren’t interested, and are not going to care a bit about yet new denominations. I can’t blame them, but hey – my days of being an ‘church member’ are over. Organized Christianity just can’t end this need for politics in society ‘for Christ’. Or whatever.

  21. Comment by Pudentiana on August 8, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    It is sad that Mark Tooley has come to the conclusion that the denomination is not possible to save as a truly Wesleyan institution, however, I am glad he no longer strives to save it. Congratulations Mr. Tooley on putting your shoulder to the wheel for working to provide a safe haven for traditionalists like myself who have struggled to support the progressive and crazy political positions of our faithless Bishops and their overblown bureaucracy. It will not be popular with the Mainstream Media.

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