Conservative church leaders consult on divisions in the UMC

In a press release issued tonight, a group of some 60 conservative pastors and theologians from the United Methodist Church announced that they had begun conversation about how to respond to what they see as deepening divisions in the church. The group came together via conference call earlier this week, and they stated they believe “the present reality, where a growing number of United Methodist bishops are unwilling to enforce the Book of Discipline, is unacceptable and untenable.” The group said that they were forming a smaller working group to bring suggestions to the larger group for responses, including suggestions of withholding funding from the church, advocacy with the Council of Bishops for greater enforcement of the Book of Discipline,  and the possibility of creating a proposal for the division of the United Methodist Church into two denominations.

Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison of the Asbury UMC in Tulsa, OK

Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison
Asbury UMC, Tulsa, OK

“Lyle Schaller’s 2004 book, The Ice Cube Is Melting, described a problem that still confronts The United Methodist Church today: two groups are locked in diametrically opposed positions,” said the Rev. Dr. Tom Harrison, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  “Since his book was published, the conflict has escalated to the point where one group is breaking the covenant which binds us together.  A new path must be found.”

Rev. Dr Charles Kyker Christ UMC, Hickory, NC

Rev. Dr Charles Kyker
Christ UMC, Hickory, NC

While the divisions in the UMC over the issue of human sexuality and gay marriage, leading to what the group sees as acts of disregard and disobedience to the Book of Discipline, the groups believe that the deeper and more important division in the church is the different understandings on the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  “We believe that the Bible is God’s word – inspired by the Holy Spirit in its entirety and authoritative for determining what is spiritually and morally true.  Many progressives see the Scriptures very differently, so much so that they accept some parts as coming from God and dismiss other parts as being uninspired – even flat out wrong,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Kyker, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

Rev. Steve Wood Mt Pisgah UMC John's Creek, GA

Rev. Steve Wood
Mt Pisgah UMC
John’s Creek, GA

An issue of concern for the group was what they see as a disregard for the covenant of the church. The group said that while they had been willing to engage in debate and dialogue, they believed that the church had arrived at a settled doctrine and practice, and that the decisions to ignore the provisions in the Book of Discipline were are breach of that covenant.“Our connectional covenant depends on obedience and faithfulness to the policies adopted by the General Conference of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Steve Wood, pastor of Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.  ‘From bishops, to clergy, to boards and agencies, it is that covenant that makes us united and binds us together.  When the covenant is not maintained and protected at any level of the church, we suffer from disunity and create a diffused witness to both the church and the world in which we live.”

Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam

Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam

“The heightened conflict within our denomination is hindering the ability of both progressive and orthodox United Methodists to pursue the mission of the church as they see it,” said the Rev. Dr. Maxie Dunnam, retired pastor, author, and seminary president.  “We must resolve this conflict, so that we can focus wholeheartedly on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

No list of participants in the conference call was made available at the time of publishing this article. The group also gave no timeline for followup calls or meetings.

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at

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119 Comments on "Conservative church leaders consult on divisions in the UMC"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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This whole discussion proves the point, mentioned in the article, that there is not now and most likely never will be, agreement on these issues. I believe a split will be a mercy and allow all groups to pursue the mission of the church as they see fit as mentioned by Dr. Dunnam. It’s sad but I see no other alternative to allowing everyone to pursue their faith without constant conflict and fighting.

Laura Diviney
A friend sent me UMR editions and asked for my take on schism. I’ve read all, including comments. I’m a 65-year-old, white, married daughter of old Dixie, with Methodism in my DNA. I’ve taught Bible studies over 40 years, been a lay delegate to conference, and lay staffer at a conference office, yet the stereotype attributed to me doesn’t match my opinion or relationship with Christ. I first heard schism decades ago over a women’s meeting with the word ‘imagination’ in it and it’s gathered steam since. Desire by a faction of clergy to tear this denomination apart is fixed… Read more »
Dianne Humphrey

Amen! been a Methodist all my life and about done with it! born and raised In a Methodist church,but now am feeling more at home in the Baptist Church! I am 67 years old. My family believes in the Bible…..not just parts of it…..all of it. I think I will be moving with them to a different place where the Bible is truly taught and appreciated and lived.

Keith Lauer

How can I get in touch to support and allow the congregation I serve to align with this effort?

Elaine T.
I really believe there are lots and lots of good people who love the teachings of Jesus and work at telling others. I also believe that there are many who love Jesus and seek to tell and live out His story of redemption through the blood of the Lamb. When I read Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus seems to make a similar distinction. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me ‘Lord, Lord, did we not… Read more »

Why are we likely to split? Because in place of holy conversation, “talk to the hand” would a rough equivalent to the majority of the posts written above.

Elaine T.
I see the Bible from the beginning to the end glorifying male/female sexuality. In the beginning God created men and women for each other thus having created the first human institution…marriage. In Revelation 19 we find the marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) with the Church (Christ’s bride). God loves us so much that he uses marriage to illustrate His love for his committed believing people (His church the Bride). Then right smack in the middle of the Bible you find The Song of Solomon where you find a beautiful portrayal of men and women who express their love for each… Read more »
Paul W.
The division in the UMC is between 1) those who believe that the Bible is truly God’s Word, that Christ, the Son of God, physically died and rose from the dead, paid the penalty for our sins, will come again to judge the living and the dead, and that there is a literal heaven and hell and all who do not place their faith in Christ and die in their sins will not see heaven, and 2) those who don’t believe this. Up until about one hundred and twenty years ago, anyone would call this division what it is —… Read more »
Eric Little
Who will listen to me? Who will read my words? No one probably, but here is what I have to say. Our issue over homosexuality is fundamentally a problem of deontological ethics. That is, the problem is that we have posed the question wrong, posing it in a positive/negative way. We ask ourselves, “Is homosexuality permissible?” But this question is the source of our anger, frustration, and potential crisis of schism. The problem is that we ask the question, automatically prompting a yes/no answer. Therefore, when we answer, we polarize ourselves, and there form exactly two camps of individuals: pro… Read more »

The “conservatives” referenced in the article claim that those opposed to their viewpoint are “violating covenant.” Yet, their first threat is to cut off funding to the denomination. That is a huge breach of covenant. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in threatening a violation of covenant to respond to a violation of covenant? Are they basing their principles on the Bible or Hammurabi’s Code?


Excellent idea WAD!!

Wes Andrews

Sounds appealing. All things progressive are declining in real social context except in Universities and Media. Progressive thought, but its very nature, destroys social constructs because there is no basis for trust.

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