By Keith Boyette
On March 20, the application process for local churches and clergy to be aligned with the Global Methodist Church moved entirely online. Congregations now complete a digital church application, and pastors complete a digital clergy application.
Since the online system was launched, more than 500 churches and clergy have completed applications and are in the process of being reviewed by a team of persons under the supervision of the Rev. Angela Pleasants, the GM Church’s Clergy and Church Relations Director. Prior to the launch of the online system, more than 1,550 churches and more than 2,150 clergy had submitted applications manually via email and been approved. Applications submitted manually before March 20 continue to be processed; however, the online system has improved the accuracy and speed with which applications are being processed.
Both applications require information to be gathered before an applicant begins to complete the forms online. For example, prior to beginning the church application, a congregational meeting must be held at which the following motion is adopted:
“I move that _____________ Church become a member congregation of the Global Methodist Church, that it affirms and endorses the doctrinal standards (Part One), Social Witness (Part Two), and church governance of the Global Methodist Church as set forth in its Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline, and agrees to be accountable to such standards, witness, and governance. Our leadership and trustees are authorized to take all actions necessary to implement this motion.”
The minutes of the congregational meeting must then be uploaded as part of completing the church application.
Persons completing the church application also need to be ready to enter the church’s physical and mailing address, the prior year’s average in-person and online worship attendance, and the prior year’s annual operating income. Additionally, the church application requires the names of the current pastor, the lay leadership (lay leader, leadership body chair, SPRC chair, Trustees chair, Finance chair, financial administrator, and lay delegate to annual conference) along with their email addresses and phone numbers.
For the clergy application, applicants need to upload photos or documents and provide background details that need to be assembled before starting the application process. Clergy will want to have gathered information about their educational degrees and dates, appointments and ministry experience, ordination certificate or ministerial license, diplomas, certificates for completing classes in the course of study, and transcripts of courses completed. Clergy applicants initiate their background check as part of completing and submitting the application.
The applications have fields that are required to be completed and applications cannot be submitted unless the fields contain the requested information. This requirement has significantly reduced the number of incomplete applications being submitted. Applications cannot be saved as incomplete documents which is why it is necessary to have information and documents available when you start the process. However, answers are retained as long as your browser is not closed.
Once an application is submitted, an email is immediately sent to the applicant acknowledging receipt of the application. Generally speaking, applicants next hear from the GM Church once the Transitional Leadership Council (TLC) has acted upon the recommendation of the review team. Once the TLC approves the application, the applicant is informed by email of the TLC’s action. Applications are generally presented to the TLC within two to four weeks of submission. The processing of each application is unique.
Presently, the online application process is only available in English. Applicants whose primary language is not English continue to submit their applications manually on forms prepared in their language.
Applicants can apply prior to disaffiliation or withdrawal from The United Methodist Church. The applicant declares the date on which approval is to be effective permitting applicants to know where they stand with the GM Church before they disaffiliate or withdraw. The GM Church is now in the midst of processing a wave of church and clergy applications as a result of special annual conferences held in the first third of 2023. Another wave will occur during the regular meetings of UM Church annual conferences. Additional waves of applications are anticipated throughout 2023 and even into 2024 and beyond.
The provision permitting churches to disaffiliate from the UM Church with relief from the trust clause expires on December 31, 2023. If a church intends to disaffiliate, now is the time to act. Each UM Church annual conference has different procedures governing the disaffiliation process so churches should pay particular attention to the rules of the annual conference from which it is disaffiliating.
There is no cost associated with becoming a congregational or clergy member of the GM Church. Churches are approved regardless of size or financial capacity. Clergy are approved based on their current status, with licensed local pastors being approved to be ordained as elders, deacons, or transitional local pastors depending on their progress in meeting the educational requirements outlined in ¶ 407 of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline.
Rev. Keith Boyette is the Transitional Connectional Officer of the Global Methodist Church, its chief executive and administrative officer.