Question: Why Do “Traditionalist” Have to Leave UMC?
Answer: Great question. Many Methodist have asked why those who support the teachings and tenants of John Wesley and believe the words and acts of Jesus, his disciples, and God have been asked to leave the UMC denomination. Before answering, I thought it might be helpful to look at a similar division of property from the Bible.
In Genesis 13:5-13, Abraham and Lot, due to quarreling among the two men’s families and flocks, agree to separate. Abraham lets Lot pick the territory he desires.
Now Lot was moving about with Abram but the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. Quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company. – Genesis 13:5-13
Currently the United Methodist Church’s global membership stands at 12.5 million. In 2016 it dropped to 6.95 million people, a decrease of about 1.6 percent from 2015, roughly the same percentage decrease seen in the last two years. U.S. average weekly attendance is less than 2.66 million, a 3.3 percent decline. If we assume in 2020 that membership declines have held steady at 1.6 percent, then today there are around 6.5 million UMC members.
Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, believes around 2.5 million will join the conservative church, and 3.5 million will remain in the progressive, liberal UMC denomination. “Nearly all the 5.5 million overseas members, mostly in Africa, will join the conservative church,” Tooley says, “so the conservative denomination will have about 8 million members globally.”
On the surface it may appear that Methodist who hold to precepts in the Book of Discipline are consenting to a land-grab by the progressive, liberal faction, but I believe God will bless the new denomination in the same way he blessed Abraham. When it comes to church growth and making disciples of Christ, it’s not the land and location that matters but the God you worship and obey. Follow and serve him only and, be it a desert or a well-watered pasture, his word will not return empty.
One final note: the example sighted above regarding Abraham and Lot is in no way meant to pass judgement on those in the progressive, liberal faction of UMC or to call out those in the LGBT community. I selected that passage simply because it shows how two groups who are in conflict can agree to separate and still love and support one another.