The UMC has decided to delay its General Assembly for the third time citing the COVID pandemic, causing a group of conservatives to announce the official launch of their own denomination.
The United Methodist Church General Conference organizers on Thursday announced that they have delayed the highly anticipated General Conference meeting for the third time "due to COVID-related and governmental policies/constraints," prompting a group of theologically conservative United Methodists to announce the official launch of their new denomination. The upcoming meeting was originally set for May 2020 in Minneapolis but was moved to August 29 to September 7, 2021, then moved again for 2022.
The decision to postpone the General Assembly for the third time was "an exceedingly difficult" decision to make, Commission Chairperson Kim Simpson said, as per the Christian Post. She added, "We engaged in a fair, thorough, integrity-filled discussion of the alternatives."
"The visa issue is a reality that is simply outside our control as we seek to achieve a reasonable threshold of delegate presence and participation," Simpson explained. "Ultimately our decision reflects the hope that 2024 will afford greater opportunity for global travel and a higher degree of protection for the health and safety of delegates and attendees."
The decision to move the United Methodist Church General Assembly for the third time comes during a critical time in the religious group's history as delegates were supposed to negotiate a denominational separation over theological differences, including issues about the inclusion of LGBT members into the denomination. Theologically conservative groups under the UMC criticized the delay for the third time and said that they are unwilling to wait until 2024 to move forward in their defection.
On Thursday, the more conservative Methodist denomination called Global Methodist Church (GMC) announced their official launch in May. Initially, the leaders who established the more conservative denomination under the United Methodist Church said they would launch their group after the General Assembly.
According to the conservative denomination's website, the group's Methodist clergy and laity from around the world have worked for "over three years to lay the groundwork for a new, theologically conservative Methodist denomination steeped in the great ecumenical and evangelical confessions of the Christian faith."
The group announced that the Transitional Leadership Council made the decision that it was "time to launch the Global Methodist Church, so those who can leave early will have a place to land, to begin building and growing, and making room for others to join later."
Transitional Leadership Council Chairman Rev. Keith Boyette, who also oversees the establishment of the GMC explained that theologically conservative churches and annual conferences want to break free of "divisive and destructive debates" and have the "freedom to move forward together." He added that the conservative group is confident that many followers will join them "in waves" in the next few years.
UM Action, an organization that defends "biblical faithfulness" and the "disciple-making focus" in the United Methodist Church condemned its leaders' decision to delay the General Assembly for the third time. In a statement, the group accused them of succumbing to "an intense institutionalist pressure campaign" in canceling the conference.
They went on to call the decision "extremely unwise and potentially destructive." They added that the leaders were "pressured" into pursuing a "destructive path" that would "provoke confusion, more church division, and litigation in which there are no winners."