Exit, Altar Right. 193 Parishes Ditch the United Methodist Church

This story has been told before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Once upon a tiime, I was aspiring to become an Episcopal Priest. I was rejected by the diocese where I lived. In retrospect, it is likely that I would have been a lousy minister. So, this choice was not the worst anyone could ever make. As it turned out, my spiritual fitness wasn’t in question.

After being rejected I felt depressed for a few days. Since college, I’ve wanted to be ordained. One Sunday, a substitute or “supply” priest told me to not take it personally. That was a bit glib. It’s not surprising that I took it personally. After all, someone had told me I wasn’t worthy to serve God. He continued: “Right Now, the diocese does not accept straight, white men to the ordination process. It was strangely liberating, and it made it easier to walk away. Since then, I’ve watched Episcopal Churches across the country (including the church where I was raised and baptized) destroy themselves because they chose to follow the will of the Woke rather than the will of God. It appears that the United Methodist Church is also heading in that direction.

Over the weekend, The United Methodist Church suffered a large loss of parishes. The Christian Post reports that during a Saturday special session, the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to ratify the disaffiliation votes of 193 churches in both states. The number of churches within the regional body has decreased by 38 percent, and its membership has dropped by 39 percent. The total number of UMC parishes has now reached 233 since last June.

In a press statement, the conference noted that most of its churches had chosen to remain in the UMC and provided the following statistics:

Following are the statistics of the 193 churches that have disaffiliated from the Alabama-West Florida Conference or the United Methodist Church.

-38% churches in the Alabama West Florida Conference.
-39% members of the Alabama-West Florida Conference.
-35% reported attendance at worship services in person by the Alabama-West Florida Conference.
Nine out of 193 churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference have a membership greater than 1,000.
While an average of 42 percent of church members regularly attend church, only 29 percent of the membership were represented in the voting to decide the future direction of their church.

A statement was also made by Bishop David Graves.

The Alabama-West Florida Conference is facing a difficult day. We say goodbye to 193 churches that have disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church with sadness and wish them all the best for their ministry. These churches are filled with clergy and lay people who have a genuine desire to serve God. We pray for them as they navigate ministry during a new phase. I want to thank churches that have chosen to remain United Methodists and those who listened to my request to not discuss leaving the denomination before we had more information. Your faithfulness in following your covenant and calling while leading your congregations through a difficult time is appreciated. It has been an emotional and laborious process for both our staff and cabinet. I can see signs of renewal and hope even in the darkest of times. We are now turning a new page in the Alabama/West Florida region and will focus on ministry that is life-changing and life-giving. I am excited to see what God will do through this conference and the connection.

In the release, it was also noted that 11 new churches were being started by the conference. The conference has launched 11 new ministries, but lost 23 churches. These numbers are not easy to overcome. I say that without being smug. The Christian Post notes that the Western North Carolina Conference also ratified 192 congregations’ departure from the UMC on the same date. The total number of churches since 2019 is 2,996.

What are the drivers behind this exodus of people? The blessing of gay and lesbian non-celibate unions, and the ordination and blessing of homosexuals who are not celibate.

Anglican Communion is still suffering from bloodletting. Many Anglican Churches in other parts are also looking to leave the narthex. Tom Osanjo, writing for The Roys Report reported that churches across the globe are tired of the progressive drift in Anglicanism. Rev. Tom Otieno is the vicar of Saint Barnabas Anglican Church of Kenya, in Nairobi. He spoke about the growing gap between the churches of places like Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Islands as well as parts of Asia. These countries could be described as being in the third and second world. Otieno said:

This means that there will be two Anglican Communions in the future, one for the Global South Anglicans and another for the Global North Anglicans. The Global South Anglicans are those who adhere to the Scriptures and the Global North Anglicans are those who preach and practice a watered down gospel. We no longer acknowledge the leadership of Right Rev. Justin Welby is the current head of the Anglican Church. I think we will soon announce the new headquarters for the Global South Church.

Otieno made his comments after the Global Anglican Future Conference in Kigali in Rwanda in April. Osanjo stated that the Kigali Commitment was born out of this conference. The Kigali Commitment reads:

We do not believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury or the other Instruments of Communion (the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meetings), led by him, are capable of providing a godly path forward that is acceptable to those committed to the truthfulness and clarity of Scripture, as well as its sufficiency, authority, and sufficiency. The Instruments of Communion failed to maintain true fellowship based on God’s Word and shared faith in Christ.

We reject the idea that two opposing positions are equally valid when it comes to salvation. We cannot walk together’ with those who deliberately choose to walk away the ‘faith delivered once and for all to the saints.’ (Jude 3) People of God must ‘walk his ways’, “walk in truth”, and “walk in light” in order to be in Christian fellowship (Deuteronomy 8, 2 John 4, 1 John 1:7).

The same-sex marriages and the ordinations of LGBTQ people are the main issues.

It’s interesting to see that it is the “poorer churches” in the Anglican Communion who are criticizing the “richer”. One could argue that those in developing nations don’t have time or money to be concerned about the superfluous trash that fascinates the Communion members of the West. The same circumstances, where there are fewer luxuries, less time and freedom and, in some cases, less freedom, have kept these churches close to God, instead of allowing distractions to dilute the Gospel.

For a moment, let’s put aside the entire LGBTQ debate. I’ve met people who were sent to labor camps because of their religion. In some countries, a Bible is enough to get you killed. In some Chinese houses churches, people will gather to listen as someone whispers the number of an individual hymn. The congregation mouths the words silently, in case someone hears them and reports them to the police. In Asia, there are villages where one Bible is used for the entire village. The Bible is divided into sections, and each villager memorizes their section before passing it to the next. After all the sections are passed around, the villagers have read the Bible. They may not remember every word, but they do know more than the average American Christian. Some believers in China have said that someone was not a mature Christian if they were only arrested one or two times. I read once about a African pastor who had half a facial. Why is he half-faced? You’re welcome. He was dragged around the town by non-believers who tied him up to the back end of a truck. They then stood him up, and shot him with a shotgun in the face. He has no idea what happened to his family. He works in his ministry, but only comes outside at night. Someone might have recognized him and finished the job if he had come out during the daylight hours.

These people don’t take their faith lightly because they live it in the shadows of oppression, and in some cases, even under fire. They may lose everything because of their faith, so it’s precious. They understand what it means for God to submit and they do not expect God to be submissive to them. Jesus is not their servant, but their Lord. They don’t have time or interest to fret about gender, or to scream about abortion or contraception. They do not have cool worship bands, tee-shirts, fog machine or light shows. They cannot afford these things and, besides, it could lead to their death.

In the West, it is the opposite. It would seem that in the West, and specifically the Episcopal United Methodist Churches, they believe that “I” is themselves.