United Methodist churches will have a new relationship with the Boy Scouts of America regarding how local troops are constituted and administered. (UM News File Photo by Mike DuBose)
United Methodists are moving into a new era at all levels of the global denomination. Annual conferences are recording congregations' applications to disaffiliate from the UMC, while those who plan to stay are defining new relationships within and beyond the church.
Biggest news for local congregations came in a new relationship between the UMC and the Boy Scouts of America, now known as BSA. Sam Hodges of UM News explains how a new arrangement will work
, with local churches moving from "chartering organizations" to signing "affiliation agreements" with local BSA councils. The change is expected to go into effect no matter what happens with the bankruptcy agreement that will bring compensation to those who suffered sexual abuse while members of the Boy Scouts.
Disaffiliation requests continue apace in annual conference sessions, but the actual number of churches leaving the UMC remains murky. That's because not all churches that request disaffiliation will make it all the way through the process described in Paragraph 2553, which is being upheld in most conferences as the framework for departure. An unofficial tally being kept by United Methodist Insight
shows that as of this date in the 2022 conference season, somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 U.S. congregations have requested disaffiliation. That's roughly 3 to 5 percent of the 30,000-plus local United Methodist churches in the United States.
A tussle over how the UMC is to divide continues in the wake of centrist and progressive negotiators' withdrawal from the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Dr. David W. Scott unpacks the meaning and significance
of the centrist/progressive disavowal. Dr. Scott also examines the differences
between election and administration of bishops in the United States and in the central conferences beyond the United States. The Rev. William C. Trench sees the UMC's history of adapting the Discipline to changing times as a reason he intends to remain United Methodist
. The Rev. Dr. Vance P. Ross (at right) challenges disaffiliating churches and clergy over whether they will repay Indigenous and Black people
for the land and labor stolen to build their churches.
The Florida Conference clergy session's disapproval of an entire class of candidates because of two candidates' sexuality continues to reverberate around the connection. The Rev. Jack Jackson contends that the real harm done to the candidates
came from the Florida Conference board of ordained ministry in certifying LGBTQ candidates despite the UMC's ban. In contrast, the Rev. Paul W. Chilcote argues that a valid tradition of "ecclesial disobedience"
going back to Methodism's founder John Wesley justifies the Florida BoM's action. The Pacific Northwest Conference board of ordained ministry posted a video of its members reaffirming their pledge
to consider clergy candidates without regard to sexuality. The PNW board also said Pacific Northwest would continue to be a "safe harbor" for LGBTQ candidates and clergy. The Rev. Charlie Baber, author of the Wesley Bros cartoon, published Part 10
of his "A History of Incompatibility" series, bringing the account up to actions in the 1960s and '70s.
The Rev. Neal Christie, a United Methodist minister, attends the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March in Washington on June 18, 2022. (RNS photo by Jack Jenkins)
More social justice issues captured interest this week. The Rev. Neal Christie, executive minister for connected engagement with the Baltimore Washington Conference, joined thousands of clergy and people of faith in the Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March
, a Washington, D.C., demonstration urging the federal government to combat widespread U.S. poverty. Jack Jenkins of Religion News Service profiled the Rev. William Barber II,
co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign that organized the June 18 event, who pursues faith-based activism despite suffering a debilitating form of arthritis. The Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter asserts that U.S. gun violence won't be resolved until people of faith stop deflecting responsibility
for finding solutions.
As were most thoughtful Americans, Editor Astle was outraged, disgusted, and saddened by this week's televised testimony of public servants regarding the pressure they endured from former president Donald Trump and his supporters attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. In "Now is the Time for Courage and Kindness,"
she urges Christians to speak out against the lies and harassment that have shattered the lives of Arizona House Speaker Russell "Rusty" Bowers and Georgia election workers "Shaye" Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, and to write letters commending the officials for fulfilling their oaths of office. Above, Ruby Freeman comforts her daughter Wandrea "Shaye" Moss as she testifies before the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Insurrection. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
We close this week's newsletter with some sobering news, Poll: Americans' Belief in God is Dropping
. There are many factors that could be related to the Gallup Poll's findings such as the coronavirus pandemic's effects, but the results are undeniable. For Christians, the challenge of witnessing to God's reality can relate to the Rev. Paul I. Burrow's interpretation of Luke 9:51-62
, containing some of Jesus' "hard sayings" when he demands his followers "set their faces" to his mission at the expense of more respectable duties. It's time for us, too, to "set our faces" to be forces for God's love and justice through Christ amid all the world's travails. Our baptismal vows empower us to resist the forces of evil in whatever forms they present themselves, and the times certainly give us plenty of signs of evil afoot. May we strengthen and encourage one another as we go about Christ's mission.