At UM-Forward Gathering, United Methodists Consider a New "Liberation Methodist Church"

By Hodges, Sam | The Christian Century, April 8, 2020 | Go to article overview

At UM-Forward Gathering, United Methodists Consider a New "Liberation Methodist Church"


Hodges, Sam, The Christian Century


Some came wanting a new denomination. Others said they prefer, for now, to keep working within the United Methodist Church.

But all who attended a UM-Forward event held March 6-8 expressed commitment to gospel-based activism on various fronts, namely LGBTQ inclusion, but also reparations, workers' rights, and climate change.

The Dallas gathering, called Trailblazing the Liberation Methodist Church, was held at Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, and the agenda included work toward forming a new denomination, as well as strategizing for the 2020 General Conference.

The General Conference, set for May 5-15 in Minneapolis, will consider various plans for structural change. Among them is the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, which would allow traditionalist churches and conferences to leave with their properties and form a separate denomination, using $25 million in United Methodist funds.

The protocol was arrived at by a 16-member negotiating team, including traditionalists, centrists, and progressives. At the table was Jan Lawrence, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, which has long advocated for full inclusion of LGTBQ people in the UMC.

But UM-Forward was not part of the discussion on the protocol, and leaders noted that ethnic ministry representatives also weren't included. An early mention of the protocol at the Dallas meeting brought scattered boos.

"Sixteen people making a decision for the whole United Methodist Church? I don't think it's representative, especially of ethnic churches," said Sandra Bonnette-Kim, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Lynn, Massachusetts, in an interview between sessions on March 8.

For the 2020 General Conference, UM-Forward has introduced its own New Expressions Worldwide plan which calls for dissolving the UMC and creating four new denominations from traditionalist, moderate, progressive, and liberationist perspectives.

Longtime advocates for LGBTQ full inclusion such as Sue Laurie and David Braden said it's time for a liberationist Methodist group.

"If the [United Methodist] church doesn't want to change, I need a place that's going to affirm me in my full humanity, and I want to make sure other LGBTQ folks know that God loves them for who they are," said Braden, a layperson in the Northern Illinois Conference.

Roughly half of those at the Dallas gathering, many of them laity, met together on March 7 for lengthy sessions about creating a denomination with the placeholder name Liberation Methodist Church. …

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