Local churches opt to join Global Methodist movement
Following a summer of deep reflection and discernment by United Methodist churchgoers in Dayton and Hardin, both churches have voted officially to disaffiliate with the denomination.
Both communities held church conferences this week on the issue of their place in the UMC and have opted to join the Global Methodist Church next year.
Many churches in the Texas Annual Conference have been working to inform and educate members about the issues while holding numerous town halls and individual group meetings over the summer months in the process of discernment.
"Our guiding principles during the discernment season were to prayerfully seek the Lord, be gracious to everyone, and focus on the long-term as we considered this really important decision," said Rev. Guy Williams of Dayton First Methodist Church.
Previously, an agreement known as "The Protocol" was negotiated in Jan. 2020 that would allow congregations that wanted to separate from the denomination to do so and enable those that stayed to reform the church. But delays in the general conference have caused lingering issues to worsen.
The 54-year-old UMC denomination has been at odds by some accounts since the day of its inception when the Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches merged.
"We've been in this fight within the church, within the denomination, for years. We've been battling this thing and it's about the Methodist Church going in a direction it need not go, and that is away from scripture," said Rev. Gideon Watson of Hardin Methodist Church.
In recent years issues between traditional and progressives in the church have led to an ever-widening divide over opposing ideologies resulting from the understandings of biblical principles and interpretation, human sexuality, and the hierarchy of the clergy within the denomination.
"To me, the church is ineffective when you don't hold fast to the teachings of scripture and Jesus Christ; we become a watered-down entity," said Watson.
Church Conferences were held under the direction of leadership from the UMC. For any church to disaffiliate from the UMC, they would need a 2/3 majority of standing members in attendance to vote in the affirmative.
Dayton came together on Sunday, Sept. 18, and saw only a single vote against for a 78-1 total vote from members in attendance to part ways with the UMC.
"I'm so pleased that our vote ended up being clear about our direction and I'm excited about our future," said Williams.
Once the vote on the resolution to disaffiliate passed, members voted on a motion to join the GMC officially, needing only a simple majority.
Williams announced that the church would be dropping United from its name and that some signage would be changing, specifically regarding the use of the cross and flame, which the UMC trademarks.
"There are some legal tasks to complete over the coming months in preparation for the transition from the United Methodist Church to the Global Methodist Church, but we're really excited to continue serving this community and leading more people into a growing relationship with Jesus," concluded Williams.
The following night church members gathered in Hardin to take up the same issue following their own discernment process.
Before the Hardin congregation considered the resolution to disaffiliate Southeast District Superintendent Rev. Romonica Malone-Wardley read Philippians 1:27 and shared some words of hope that everyone would walk away from the vote, considerate of differing views.
"I know that in every congregation, there have been people who are of different minds, but I hope that you can find a way as much as possible to stay together and continue to show love and grace," said Malone-Wardley.
While Dayton had a single vote against, the Hardin decision was unanimous, voting 48-0, leading to an easier time following the departure from the UMC and their move to the GMC.
"We were pleased that vote came out unanimous because it shows that we had no discord," said Watson.
Laura Yarbrough, who serves as chair of the board of trustees in Hardin, was saddened that everything had come to this moment but felt it was necessary for the church.
"I support it wholeheartedly. I think the United Methodist Church it's a sad, sad thing. I've been United Methodist for most of my life; before that, I was just Methodist; I am sad it happened, but it had to happen. The United Methodist Church has left its roots, not necessarily the people, but the people running the show," said Yarbrough
Watson was saddened that everything had come to the point of no return for so many in the church.
"The sad thing is that the United Methodist Church is dying, it's broken, and we're having to get off and start our own denomination. So, it is sad, but we're looking forward to a new way of having church, so we don't have to fight this fight every day. We've been fighting this fight for over half a century and now we don't have to," concluded Watson.
Both churches join the congregation of First Methodist Church of Cleveland, which parted ways with the denomination Sunday, July 31.
The Cleveland congregation saw 90% of members cast a vote to part ways with the UMC and join the GMC.
According to Rev. Greg Smith, those that voted no did so more out of a desire to stay with the faith tradition than oppose it on political grounds. He also said that after conversations with those in opposition, those members would remain with the church.
"Really, what it came down to for us, is about the way the church is structured," said Smith.
That structure under the GMC will be more autonomous and allow churches to focus their mission locally and retain ownership of their properties, which was not the case under the UMC.
He was pleased to say that he felt that mission work would improve, and they would continue to foster relationships in the community with local schools and, more specifically, the Trinity River Food Bank, which offices in their church.
That relationship will focus on continuing to feed the community and help with other areas like paying bills and helping people to find work and build stable lives.
The First United Methodist Church of Daisetta will join the conversation when they consider their future in the UMC on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 6:30 pm.
Once churches vote for disaffiliation, nothing becomes official until Dec. 3, when the Texas Annual Conference meets for a special called session to approve the process. Current estimates report that around half of the conference's churches, representing the 58 most eastern counties in Texas, have either entered a discernment process or have already voted for disaffiliation.
As for the future of the Devers United Methodist and South Liberty United Methodist, both churches may join the fray in the future, according to sources.
As for the First United Methodist Church of Liberty, the verdict is still out; by all indications, they appear to be staying put in the UMC. The Vindicator has reached out to the church and hopes to hear more from them in the coming days.
For more information about the UMC, visit www.umc.org, and for details on the GMC, visit globalmethodist.org. For information on local churches, contact your local church office.