How the GMC Could End Up Like the UMC, and Why It Won’t

I recently had reason to learn who is the Chair for the Conference Board of Trustees in South Carolina. I found a name on the Conference website, but no other information. What are his professional qualifications? What is his day job? What is his commitment to the Christian faith and involvement in the church? This is not idle curiosity, and I have no desire to dox him. I wanted to know his professional qualifications and his moral framework for decision making so I could better understand and evaluate the work that is coming from that office.

I called a dozen clergy and laity who are active in Conference affairs. No one knew anything about him. The Chair of Trustees is an elected office. Everyone I called who was a delegate to the Annual Conference had to vote for him. After the bishop, this is the most powerful office in the Conference, yet he was elected by people who had no idea of his professional or moral qualifications to serve the church. He may be imminently qualified in every respect (and likely is), or he may not be. There is no way to know.  This is true for almost every elected conference position. That is a good way to drive your church into the swamp.

To be fair to the delegates, the Conference leadership makes it very difficult to know who you are voting for. If the leadership discovers anyone is distributing information on a candidate regarding professional qualifications or doctrinal stance—whether it is positive or negative—they work hard to put a stop to it. The Conference Committee on Nominations presents one candidate for each position, and you have two options: vote yes, or don’t vote. A candidate is elected by a majority of delegates present and voting, so almost everyone is unanimously elected (Rarely, there is a second nomination from the floor.) If we carried that practice into the Global Methodist Church, we would soon drive into the same swamp.

Here is why the GMC is unlikely to end up in the UMC swamp.  

The GMC is acting differently already, and its proposed Book of Doctrine and Discipline is leading us in a different direction. For every person selected for every office in the Global Methodist Church the Transitional Leadership Council has released a biography stating the persons professional qualifications, personal faith, and doctrinal understanding. Usually, it includes direct quotes from the individual and examples of their life of faith. As Annual conferences are forming, they will do well to follow the pattern.

Furthermore, the GMC is, at its core, committed to doctrinal integrity and authentic Christian practice. Its Book of Doctrine and Discipline is designed to be “permission-giving” regarding church operations and local church mission, but protective about sound teaching and the responsibility to guard the faith. It has little interest in the number of committees a church chooses to have, but it is quite concerned about the church’s teaching on Biblically authority, salvation, Wesleyan accountability groups, discipleship participation, and personal holiness.

Finally, one cannot remain an active member in the Global Methodist Church by simply showing up for an occasional worship service. The provision that, “Each member is called to fulfill their vows of baptism and membership, being faithful by participating in the spiritual formation, worship, stewardship, and service opportunities each church provides,” is not just empty rhetoric. It expects members who are physically able to participate in spiritual formation beyond the Sunday service if they are to remain on the active roll. The local church “…may require that individuals’ membership be intentionally renewed on a yearly basis. In such churches, congregants who do not choose to renew their commitment may be placed on the inactive roll of the church.” However, the local may not keep people on the active membership roll indefinitely who do not participate in the spiritual formation and worship opportunities of the local church.  This emphasis may cause some churches to decide the GMC is too intense for them, but it will not produce delegates to Annual Conference who are satisfied with not knowing who they are voting for.

We are not likely to hear complaints about the Global Methodist Church drifting into doctrinal oblivion. We are more likely to hear complaints from people that its commitment to evangelism and discipleship are too intense for their taste.

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