January 26, 2020


Liberal Methodists Toss Out The Africans (GRAYSON QUAY, 1/13/20, American Conservative)

At the last General Conference in March 2019, delegates rejected two proposals, one permitting LGBT+ weddings and clergy for the entire Church and the other allowing each conference (the Methodist equivalent of a Catholic or Anglican diocese) to decide for itself. Instead they approved the "Traditional Plan." This not only upheld the UMC's longstanding ban on gay marriage and clergy, but also threatened to defrock any clergy who defied it.

So if the traditionalists are in the majority, why is it that they will have to throw out their UMC stationary? And why is the UMC so often labeled as part of the American liberal mainline? The answer to the first question, according to Ryan Danker, a professor of Methodist Studies at Wesley Theological Seminary, is that the traditionalists "want a flexible and non-bureaucratic movement" and are eager to ditch the UMC's "top-heavy" bureaucracy. The answer to the second is that the UMC is not an entirely American denomination. Liberal Methodism is indeed dominant in America, but over the last two decades, Methodism--along with other forms of Christianity--has been growing explosively in Africa. In 2010, the American Spectator estimated that, while the American UMC conferences were losing 1,000 members a week, the theologically conservative overseas conferences were set to contribute 40 percent of the delegates at the 2012 General Conference. The American Methodists introduced a proposal that would have sidelined the Africans from voting on matters that would have affected the American conferences, but it was rejected.

Dr. Danker told me that he estimates the new traditionalist denomination will probably be made up of "2 to 2.5 million" Americans, "[t]ogether with about six million" members from overseas, leaving between 3.5 and 4 million American Methodists to fill the pews of the diminished and diminishing UMC. The pro-gay faction has saved a withered fig tree by hacking off every branch that bore fruit.

As long as the American liberal wing of the UMC maintained its safe majority, it was content to allow the rules enshrining traditional Christian sexual ethics to remain on the books. The anti-gay provisions of the Book of Discipline weren't worth arguing over when they could just as easily be ignored. But by the time the liberals realized their majority was slipping away, it was too late. A coalition of African Methodists and the traditionalist American minority carried the day.

Posted by at January 26, 2020 12:00 AM