by Bob Phillips
The United Methodist Church is moving toward a ‘mitosis moment,’ a cell division within the body of Christ that can renew and What follows are five reasons that some may give, or unconsciously assume, to argue for affiliation with the GMC. While held by folks of honest intention and good will, what follows does not stand close scrutiny as legitimate, realistic or healthy reasons to embrace the GMC. What follows is my opinion and not the official view of the Wesleyan Covenant Association or the (not yet legally incorporated) Global Methodist Church. I could be wrong. That happened on February 6, 1998 for twenty minutes and could happen again (place smiling emoji here!!) Here goes.
1. Affiliating with the GMC as a Real and Pure Church
That harmonica has been played many times in history. Ask the Montanists or the Donatists or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. New expressions can bring positive correction to misplaced or bad theology but whispered notions of a pure or much-nearer-to-perfect church have a lousy track record when introduced to reality. When I hear someone huff about wanting to join a real New Testament church, I inwardly think of the Corinthian Christian Carnival and shiver. The GMC is and shall remain a work in progress (emphasizing ‘progress’) filled with folks broken by sin, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and going on to a perfection not yet attained.
2. Affiliating with the GMC to Start Growing Again
Bible-believing churches in the US are growing, except where they aren’t, and that includes Methodists. There is no magic potion or checklist to transform flatlined or declining congregations in short order. The GMC vision is vigorous and practical in mobilizing the church’s resources and structures toward evangelism and discipleship, but nothing will be automatic or easy.
3. Affiliating with the GMC to Get the Pastor or the Congregation We Really Want
The GMC empowers churches and clergy to much more ownership and engagement in discerning pastoral leadership. However, especially during the transition period when clarity is lacking on the number of available clergy and churches, it will not and cannot be an ‘all you can eat’ buffet of tasty clergy selections. GMC policy will affirm churches that enter with pastors who wish to remain with those churches as granting that wish.
4. Affiliating with the GMC to Bring an End to Apportionments and to Own the Building
“Apportionments” is a word is not found in the Bible and likely will never be spoken in the Kingdom. That said, beware the attraction of a misplaced sense of ownership and control. All resources belong to the King in behalf of the Kingdom. The dysfunctions in both apportionment and trust clause dimensions cry out for reformation. Apportionments have helped support some unpopular and wrong-headed stuff, but also have supported missionaries, crisis ministry, education and other very good works. Ownership and control of money and property for their own sake is spiritual poison; keeping the balance of new freedom with renewed responsibilities will be crucial.
5. Affiliating with the GMC to Oppose Gay Marriage and LGBTQIA+ Clergy
Any church self-identified in negative terms will have trouble communicating the “Good” News of Christ, which is the essential meaning of “gospel.” It is easy for any group to list their grievances and what they oppose. Yes, that also goes for folks who claim opposition to bigotry, oppression, ignorance and hate…when used as code words weaponized to club other Christians over the head. This part of the article is speaking to more traditional, evangelical (in the best sense) Wesleyans in warning against adopting a vision of church and gospel that easily lists what it denies-denounces-deplores but struggles to affirm a constructive-redemptive-renewing vision of the church. “Taste not, touch not, handle not” (Col. 2:21) is not the life verse of the GMC, nor is “And Samuel hewed Agag into pieces before the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:33) the biblical verse best describing GMC ministry!
Chair WCA, Illinois Great Rivers Conference
Degrees from University of Illinois, Asbury and Princeton Seminaries, University of St. Andrews
Graduate of Senior Executive Seminar on Morality, Ethics and Public Policy, Brookings Institution
Captain, Chaplain Corps, US Navy (ret)