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The GM Church Beyond the U.S.

By Keith Boyette

Global Methodists gather for worship in the Philippines.

As the Global Methodist Church prepares to observe its first anniversary on May 1, 2023, it is pleased to announce that nearly 2,000 local churches and 2,400 clergy have joined it. The vast majority of those churches and pastors are from the U.S., causing some to ask, “What’s happening beyond its borders?”

First, it is important to note that many congregations all around the world have already joined the GM Church. Just as it launched last year, all the local United Methodist churches in Bulgaria announced they had withdrawn from the denomination to align with the GM Church. Five months later, all the UM congregations in Slovakia followed their Bulgarian sisters and brothers into the new Church. And this May, GM Church ordination services will be conducted in both countries.

More recently, the four annual conferences in the UM Church’s Eurasia Episcopal Area and the Estonia Annual Conference in the Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area announced they have initiated the process of separating from the denomination. The GM Church anticipates receiving clergy and churches from these five annual conferences in the coming months. Other Methodist churches and clergy across Europe are considering joining the GM Church. Leaders are courageously navigating an often confusing separation process that slows their local churches transitions.

In the Philippines, a group of UM churches withdrew from the denomination prior to the launch of the GM Church. As soon as the GM Church began operations, the congregations immediately joined it, forming the Covenant Philippines Provisional Annual Conference. More recently, all the Filipino expat churches in the Middle East, and the clergy serving them, joined the GM Church. In addition, a broad-based group of clergy and lay persons from across the Philippines have now formed a Transitional Conference Advisory Team to develop an organizational structure for the GM Church in additional areas in the Philippines.

And in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo Provisional Annual Conference (DRC PAC) began operations in late 2022. Formed by the GM Church’s Transitional Leadership Council at the request of local leaders, the DRC PAC has already planted forty-six new local churches. The provisional annual conference has conducted church multiplication training for its members and is busy constructing new church buildings in partnership with Crosspoint Church in Niceville, Florida, a future GM congregation.

Still, too many local UM churches in Africa that want to join the GM Church must overcome significant obstacles, or they are being told they cannot disaffiliate at all. Unlike churches in the U.S., they are not permitted to disaffiliate using a procedure adopted in 2019 by the UM Church, commonly known as a ¶ 2553 disaffiliation. Bishop Thomas Bickerton, president of the UM Church’s Council of Bishops, declared that disaffiliation process was not available to churches outside the U.S. despite the clear wording of the provision not limiting its geographical application. Consequently, many bishops outside the US have refused to let congregations decide whether or not they want to disaffiliate from the UM Church.

However, leadership groups on the continent are at work helping congregations and clergy prepare to exit the denomination and align with the GM Church. Many plan to make their decisions sometime in 2024, when the UM Church’s often postponed 2020 General Conference is finally held.

Whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the U.S., too many local churches find themselves locked in the UM Church because their bishops and annual conferences are not acting on their disaffiliation requests or the terms offered them are so onerous and financially prohibitive it makes an exit – with their property and assets –nearly impossible. Nevertheless, they continue to prayerfully persevere as they explore every possible pathway to the Global Methodist Church. Their sisters and brothers look forward to warmly welcoming them when they finally arrive where they want to be.

This week, clergy and lay leaders from around the world are gathering in Houston, Texas, for Beyond These Walls, an international missions conference; the GM Church is the lead sponsor. The Book of Revelation shares the apostle John’s vision of “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb,” worshiping, loving, and serving God (Revelation 7:9). The GM Church longs for that day, and is dedicated to its vision.

You can learn more about the Global Methodist Church by exploring its website.

Rev. Keith Boyette is the Transitional Connectional Officer of the Global Methodist Church, its chief executive and administrative officer.


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