By Walter B. Fenton
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway and Bishop Emeritus Mike Lowry pull no punches in their newly released book, Multiplying Methodism: A Bold Witness of Wesleyan Faith at the Dawn of the Global Methodist Church. They briskly survey the bitter disputes in The United Methodist Church over its sexual ethics and core theological confessions, and the ecclesiological dysfunction that has led to denominational division. And then they turn to their vision for a new Methodism in the recently launched Global Methodist Church. Along the way, they freely acknowledge they are not of one mind on some issues and warn others that the Global Methodist Church might not be the denomination for them.
For instance, they write, “We have different views of what the episcopacy should look like [in the Global Methodist Church].” And for theological conservatives who think the GM Church will be a spruced-up version of the UM Church, they warn, “Let us be clear, the Global Methodist Church will not be United Methodism 2.0. If you think this is just about changing the name on the front of your church building without being intentional about embedding distinctively Wesleyan DNA in your congregation—don’t come.”
Greenway and Lowry have over 73 years of joint experience in the UM Church, serving as pastors, district superintendents, and as General Conference delegates. Lowry also served as the resident bishop in the Central Texas Annual Conference for over 13 years, and Greenway is a past president of Asbury Theological Seminary. Both presently serve on the Global Methodist Church’s Transitional Leadership Council (TLC), where they are joined by 15 other members providing temporary oversight of the nascent church until its convening General Conference.
“Whether you agree or disagree with them, Bishop Mike Lowry and Jeff Greenway have earned the respect of centrists, conservatives, and liberals,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the GM Church’s Chief Connectional Officer. “Multiplying Methodism is their well-informed analysis of the troubles in the UM Church and their passionate and challenging vision for the future of the Global Methodist Church. For local UM churches considering disaffiliating from the denomination, this book is another important resource for understanding the why of separation and the hopes for a new Methodism.”
While acknowledging their dedication to and thankfulness for the UM Church, Greenway and Lowry compare its deep divisions to a married couple where accountability and trust have been lost. Like the leading UM bishops, clergy, and laity who negotiated the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, they believe “irreconcilable differences among us have resulted in our need to be in separate churches – but in the process, we have some heart work to do. As we press on, we will need to commit ourselves to work on our new covenant relationships while not continually having flashbacks to the old. We take no joy in finding ourselves at this juncture, but we’re not without hope. We write to remind us all that this is not the first time people who claim the name of Jesus have separated.”
Hundreds, if not thousands, of local UM churches are currently considering or are in the midst of disaffiliating from the denomination. At least 16 of the 53 UM Church annual conferences in the U.S. are holding special meetings to consider approving local church requests to disaffiliate this year. More annual conferences will take-up requests at special gatherings slated for early 2023 or at their regularly scheduled conferences in May or June. Some of the local churches are planning to join the Global Methodist Church, while others are considering other Wesleyan denominations, or becoming independent congregations.
“In the midst of decision-making, local United Methodist congregations find themselves with multiple questions and difficulty locating trusted sources to find answers,” said the Rev. Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory, Chairwoman of the TLC. “Multiplying Methodism provides answers to those questions by trusted leaders. The comprehensive information found in this text offers churches an understanding of why they should consider leaving the United Methodist Church, while also providing details of the polity and structure of the Global Methodist Church. This is a must-have resource for churches in the discernment process.”
For Greenway and Lowry, congregations in the Global Methodist Church must focus on being genuinely orthodox, truly Wesleyan, unashamedly evangelistic, and passionately missional. They argue that for the sake of the Gospel and simply to remain alive, local churches will have to bear these four marks in an increasingly post-Christian culture.
“This is an incredible moment in history,” they write. “And we believe God has given us the opportunity to partner with Him and other like-minded, warm-hearted, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled, Wesleyan, orthodox Christians to be part of a New Methodism for the 21st Century which is deeply rooted in global Christianity while leaning forward to share the Gospel with people in desperate need of its saving and sanctifying grace.”
Electronic and paperback editions of Multiplying Methodism are available for purchase.
You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.
The Rev. Walter Fenton is Global Methodist Church’s Deputy Connectional Officer.