WEBER CITY, Va. (WJHL) – As part of a larger schism within the United Methodist Church (UMC) denomination, one local church has decided to break away to a newly-formed church that they believe offers a more hardline stance on sexuality.
According to a press release from Holston View United Methodist Church of Weber City, Virginia, the congregation will soon join the Global Methodist Church (GMC), which is set to launch in May.
“After considering our understanding of the importance of Scripture and the basic beliefs of the vast majority of our church members, we think we need to declare where we will stand once Methodists define a way to separate along theological lines,” said Chris Stapleton, the church’s lay leader. “The ongoing crisis in the United Methodist Church simply causes too much confusion as we try to fulfill the mission of reaching people for Jesus Christ.”
That mission, however, cannot currently be accepted by Methodists in the LGBTQ+ community. In the press release, the church cites a recent opening of the ministry to “practicing” homosexual people and the allowance of same-sex marriage within UMC sanctuaries as the cause of their departure, stating that some modern UMC churches have “flagrantly disregarded the church’s Book of Discipline without repercussions.”
What does the UMC believe?
As part of their updated doctrine, the United Methodist Church published its social stance on sexuality as follows:
Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.
We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.
Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, “Social Principles: The Social Community“
Within church literature, the UMC states that clergy may not be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” and that same-sex ceremonies cannot be performed within church facilities. In the early 2000s, the UMC judiciary revoked Reverend Irene Stroud’s membership after she informed her bishop and congregation that she was in a committed relationship with a female partner and had been for several years.
In a pseudo-trial, an internal jury found Stroud guilty of violating church tenets. Within the church, however, practices and opinions may vary.
“With a body of over 12 million members globally, United Methodists are not of one mind about how to be in ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people,” a church announcement reads. “Some members feel strongly that the church should uphold its current stances regarding gay clergy and marriage. Others strongly advocate for inclusion of LGBTQ Christians in all aspects of life in the church.”
More recently, prominent clergy members have remained open about their sexuality without repercussion. Bishop Karen Oliveto is cited by the UMC’s Council of Bishops as the first openly lesbian bishop in the history of the denomination. Oliveto’s wife, Robin Ridenour, is also listed as a deaconess within the church.
What does the GMC believe?
Within the newly-minted Global Methodist Church, published doctrine states that church leaders “denounce as sin racism, sexism, and other expressions that unjustly discriminate against any person.”
Later in the same document, the GMC states that “We believe that human sexuality is a gift of God that is to be affirmed as it is exercised within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman.”
While affirming a scriptural view of sexuality and gender, we welcome all to experience the redemptive grace of Jesus and are committed to being a safe place of refuge, hospitality, and healing for any who may have experienced brokenness in their sexual lives.Global Methodist Church, “What We Believe”
In doctrine outlining the qualifications of the ordained, the GMC states that those who wish to serve must demonstrate “fidelity in a Christian marriage between one man and one woman” or “chastity in singleness.”
How will the split work?
As contention arose surrounding the topic, factions within the UMC began calling for a general conference to formally settle the matter across the entire church. In 2019, a special session called on the matter resulted in tightened restrictions on LGBT clergy and ceremonies.
As COVID-19 impacted churches of every faith, a general conference scheduled for 2020 was pushed back several times before a final announcement that it would not take place until 2024. Church officials cited visa and travel challenges and stated that all conference delegates must have the opportunity to attend if the event was to take place.
After the most recent delay, GMC leaders wrote that the UMC prevented an “amicable and orderly separation” using a negotiated plan called the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” penned in 2019. The protocol, which at the time was planned for acceptance in the 2020 general conference, was supposed to formalize the split process and allow church leaders of varying factions to declare new denominations by May 15, 2021.
According to a review of the protocol, $25 million was to be paid to the new “traditionalist” denomination upon their exit. If multiple factions broke off, the protocol said each would have to come to an agreement on their individual cut.
The GMC’s creation before a 2024 adoption of the protocol throws a wrench into the original compromise, as no specific procedure is currently in place for the transfer of church assets and pensions.
“The logistics are what remain to be worked out,” said Holston View UMC pastor Chuck Griffin. “And for people outside (perhaps even inside) the UMC, it all seems a little complicated and arcane.”
As it stands, Griffin said it may be possible that entire conferences vote to leave the denomination. If the church’s judiciary decides to allow it, the entire Holston Conference might decide their own fate at their next called meeting after the ruling.
Otherwise, Griffin believes the changes can be made through existing rules.
“There is a paragraph allowing churches to transfer to ‘another evangelical denomination;’ another paragraph allows churches simply to ‘disaffiliate,’ becoming independent,” Griffin said. “Because of our Trust Clause, which binds our properties to the larger church, and our churches’ individual pension liabilities, the latter option likely is much more expensive for most churches than the former.”
Griffin serves as the president of the Holston chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), a faction previously within the UMC that advocates for more staunch adherence to sexuality doctrines.
Griffin said several churches throughout the UMC have reportedly spoken to the WCA about making the switch, though few have publicly spoken on the matter. Griffin cited the First United Methodist Church of Alcoa as one prominent example, voting to publicly affiliate with the WCA in 2021.