By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
December 21, 2022
They say that “breaking up is hard to do.” Congregations separating from the United Methodist Church could probably add a verse or two to the Neil Sedaka classic as 2022 winds to a close with nearly a third of the Methodist churches in the North Carolina Conference and another 50 in the Western North Carolina Conference breaking away to chart a more Biblical path.
“I am not a Methodist, although the Creeches who preceded me were, but I serve an organization where various Methodist churches have supported us through the years,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “I know this is a painful time for our Methodist brethren, but the split is not only necessary, but imperative for preserving the truth.”
That truth — that sex outside of a God-ordained marriage is sin and that it therefore should not be tolerated among the clergy nor celebrated among parishioners by the performance of a same-sex wedding — was for decades understood by followers of John Wesley, the father of Methodism. But over time, many leaders of the denomination began to bow to pressure from the culture and to advocate that the sentence “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” be removed from the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institution on Religion & Democracy, an ecumenical think tank in Washington, D.C. that supports biblical teaching, points out that every major vote on the issue at the UMC’s General Conferences since 1972 was won by those holding to the Biblical truth. But nonetheless, some bishops began ignoring both the Bible and the church law by ordaining non-celibate homosexual pastors and performing same-sex weddings.
Even while liberal Methodist seminaries in the U.S. were churning out clergy who did not believe in Biblical sexuality, the denomination’s conservative faction was growing in Africa, where UMC members now outnumber their American counterparts.
As the controversy over the issue grew, delegates to the General Conference decided in 2016 to defer action pending further study. Three years later, at a special conference in February 2019, delegates approved what was labeled the “Traditionalist Plan,” affirming the denomination’s Biblical teaching on homosexuality and hardening its approach to rulebreakers, after which the Judicial Council, which serves as the UMC’s supreme court, granted churches the “limited right” to disaffiliate for reasons related to church law on homosexuality.
According to the Council’s ruling, churches that want to leave the denomination must have their disaffiliation resolution approved by a two-thirds majority of their members; their conference board of trustees must establish terms and conditions; and the agreement must be ratified by a simple majority vote at the annual conference.
Tooley says it is unfair that traditionalists who are the majority of the denomination are the ones that must separate, but he says they must exit in order to “replant Wesleyan Christianity across America.” Advantages to disaffiliation, he points out, are that the local congregation, not the conference, will control their own property; the church will have authority over appointing their own pastor and they will no longer have to pay apportionments to support what he called a “bloated bureaucracy.”
However, the approved exit plan requires the churches to pay two years of apportionments and pension liabilities, conditions that some congregations say amount to bullying. In fact, 38 churches in the Western North Carolina Conference sued the denomination as did 100 churches in Florida. Representatives from the National Center for Life and Liberty say they are in talks in 42 of the 54 United Methodist conferences in the United States.
The Rev. Creech says Methodist churches that are still on the fence should exit the denomination now.
“People who hear a Gospel message which says you can practice sin and still have a right relationship with God and inherit eternal life will be deceived and hear the Lord say, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:23),” he said. “A valid Gospel message is what’s at stake.”
“What’s happening in this country is nothing less than a cultural and moral revolution that will ultimately destroy this nation if not turned back. The Bible says that sin is a reproach to any people, and all the nations that forget God will be turned into hell. When the churches endorse sin, it moves exponentially,” he added.
“If ever there was a time for the church to be the church – to stick out like a sore thumb in opposition to sexual immorality – it is now – lest Christ removes their candlestick. Now that Methodists have earnestly considered what’s at stake and have chosen to separate themselves from what is unclean, one can only wonder what took them so long. There are other denominations that are infiltrated with heretics and apostates who control the leadership that need to do the same. The Scriptures command separation, asking, ‘How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14).”
Creech agrees with many who say the split of the Methodist Church is simply an indicator of the nation’s deeply fractured political landscape.
The American Renewal Project’s David Lane says the war in American politics is “not between Democrats and Republicans. It explicitly concerns two distinct religions vying for control of resources and ideological supremacy in the culture and public square.”
In essence, it’s a war between Baal and Jehovah, he says, and the church must get involved in politics to take back the reins of the nation.
“Thankfully, three of the 13 freshmen elected to the N.C. State House on November 8 are pastors,” Lane wrote in a recent commentary about the Methodist split. “Three Iowa pastors were elected to the IA Legislature on Election Day as well. If we are to make it through, every church in America should have a pastor, elder, deacon, or congregant running for local office in 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, and thereafter.”