Conservative Methodists, Unite

After this week’s UMC votes on LGBTQ issues, African Methodists should join American conservatives in the new Global Methodist denomination.

That was fast. In the first General Conference since the most conservative congregations disaffiliated, the United Methodist Church liberalized its teachings on marriage, sexuality, and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy.

In other mainline denominations, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (USA), the conservative exodus has tended to come after the progressive victory. But in the UMC, the conservative American contingent is already gone, so the vote wasn’t close.

With that settled, the next and perhaps final battle between American Methodists who have been on opposite sides of theological and social issues for more than half a century will concern who can win over the Africans, who have been the “main group opposing the changes in policy” on sexuality and are also the largest UMC contingent outside the United States. The breakaway conservative denomination called itself the Global Methodist Church in no small part because members hoped to remain in fellowship with churches in the Global South, where Methodism is more orthodox—and growing as Methodism in the US hasn’t in years.

But the United Methodist Church has also set in motion a plan to allow regional autonomy on the very issues that broke up the denomination domestically. This would permit African churches to remain traditional in how they define marriage and—so the pitch goes—otherwise insulate themselves from the Americans’ liberal course.

African Methodists have previously rejected similar proposals, likely understanding how such rules would dilute African churches’ influence over the denomination and exempt leaders of the shrinking US church from accountability …

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