Yes, There is False Information Being Spread About the UMC. Here’s Proof:

In my last post, one of the things I harped on was the spread of misleading and false information about the UMC being conducted by people connected with the Global Methodist Church/Wesleyan Covenant Association. Below is a prime example of what I’m talking about:

This is petty and ridiculous. While I do not know exactly who created this tissue of lies (I’m trying to find out – and I fully intend to find out), I do speculate it was someone connected with WCA and/or GMC. The fact that GMC is doing absolutely nothing to refute or to discourage this kind of mudslinging is pretty telling. But let’s talk about a few of these points they allege about a “post-separation” UMC:

  • No, the UMC will not become pluralistic. As I have already stated in my previous writing (see link above), the Articles of Religion affirm faith in Jesus Christ as the sole means of salvation. Because of the Restrictive Rules, these can not be amended. It’s not happening. Period. But let’s say it did happen: I would be one of the first out the door.
  • There’s no guarantee that annual conference boundaries will change, but at some point perhaps they will. There’s no way to know for sure at this time if, or how, that will happened (that will ultimately be up to General Conference/Jurisdictional Conferences).
  • As for international membership, I speculate that a lot of the African central conferences are going to opt to remain in the UMC for various reasons. As has already been demonstrated in places such as Nigeria, the GMC has very limited support within some of the conferences on the African continent.
  • The Trust Clause claim is also false. Let me be very clear: Annual conferences DO NOT own or control the banking accounts of congregations. They never have and never will. Period. This is patently false and intentionally misleading to cause fear. The only time the Trust Clause even is a factor is in the event a congregation chooses to close or disaffiliate, otherwise it has no bearing on the day-to-day operations of a congergation.
  • Whether or not LGBTQ clergy will be allowed to be ordained or licensed for ministry, or whether or not LGBTQ marriage rites/weddings will be allowed will be up to the General Conference. Frankly, given the trend of conservative representation from the central conferences only expected to increase (with the prediction being over 50% by 2024), I find it hard to believe that our stance is honestly likely to change.
  • The UMC’s position on abortion can be best summed up as being against abortion except in rare circumstances but that abortion should be legal and rare. For more, see our social principals. You will note that it’s very pro-life and not what many people seem to believe it is. One thing you will see very plainly is that the UMC DOES NOT endorse abortion as a means of birth control. Never have, and I doubt ever will.
  • The primary church focus is “social justice?” Really? (eye roll emoji goes here).

I’m sick and tired of having to explain these falsehoods to both parishioners and others who, when they find out that I’m a pastor in the UMC, they make all sorts of assumptions and repeat the junk that floats around online. Frankly, me and my colleagues should not have to invest so much time and energy into dispelling these falsehoods.

Once again, I call on the Transitional Leadership Board within the Global Methodist Church to do everything they can to stop this kind of fear mongering and misinformation being distribubuted by people clearly affiliated with their denomination. If they choose not to, they are complicit and I will only assume they endorse these tactics.

A Letter to the Global Methodist Church

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I greet you in the strong name of Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who was, is, and is to come. The One who lived and died and rose again so that we may share in His victory over sin and death.

This letter is one that I hoped to not have to write but it’s become evident that someone needs to say these words to you. If no one else will, I will. The reason is simple: I love you all.

Seriously, I do. Do not agree with your choice to leave the United Methodist Church and to encourage others to follow you, but I also support you all in going in the way which you believe you are led to go. May you all continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ, may the love of Christ and the hope of resurrection be proclaimed, and may you and your congregations grow in grace, love, and in truth. My sincere hope is that we can all continue to be co-laborers for Jesus at the end of the day.

With that said (and know that this next statement does not apply to all of you): I do not agree with your tactics, the lies many of you are spreading, and the fear that is being sown. Your attempts at spiritual and other manipulation are sickening and. it pains me to know that many of you willingly and, perhaps, gleefully participate in these games. Lying is a sin and I urge you all to repent. Even if you believe that you’re building God’s kingdom, the end does not justify the means. Based on what I have seen and heard, here are some areas where I believe the GMC needs to come clean.

Admit that this was the plan from the start.

You can’t kid a kidder and you can’t con a con artist.

I told many friends of mine that, when the Wesleyan Covenant Association launched, a new denomination was also on its way. I was told repeatedly by WCA insiders that a new church was not in the works and that they had no such ambitions. One even told me – and yes this is a direct quote because I will never forget it – “We will stay. in the United Methodist Church until Jesus comes back.” (the person who said this to me is no longer involved in WCA/GMC because they realized they were being lied to) Well, here now we have the GMC, launched by people also involved with WCA. New denominations don’t just happen overnight, they take years of discernment and planning to launch. Just be honest and admit that this was the plan from the beginning of WCA. That much became clear to me quickly.

Stop the misinformation campaign

One of the main problems with politics today is that there is so much misinformation put out by campaigns, parties, and outside players, that it’s difficult to tell the truth from the lies. The biggest misfortune is that church folks seem to be keen on not only believing the political lies but also employing the tactics used on them. Especially the clergy, you all know that the United Methodist Church is not going to change to a doctrine that denies the divinity of Jesus, denies the trinity or any of the other fear-inducing claims some of you are making. Yes, there certainly are individual people within the UMC who hold such beliefs, but they are few and far between. It’s not uncommon for someone to make such a claim and when asked to name someone who said any of these things, they suddenly claim to feel attacked or otherwise can’t name anyone. Even if there was a movement within the UMC to change our articles of religion and confessions of faith, it’s next to impossible to do so because of the Restrictive Rules (again, this is something that should be common knowledge). This tells me that either people are intentionally misrepresenting the truth or that outsiders with no knowledge of UMC polity are being allowed to spread such rumors to benefit the GMC. Either way, it’s dishonest, disgusting, and sinful.

The doctrine issue is only one aspect subject to rumors and fear mongoring. Spreading rumors that churches are not being allowed to leave is dishonest as well. A pastor stood up during my annual conference’s gathering and claimed that there was an annual conference in Texas (I don’t believe he said which) that was not allowing churches to disaffiliate if they wished to do so. I know for a fact that this is not true as I have colleagues in Texas – in two different annual conferences – who are actually part of disaffiliation teams that their conferences send to assist churches that wish to leave. There may be pockets of resistance, sure, but it’s not widespread and is most certainly not the conspiracy that a lot of you are making it out to be. The claim that pastors are being told not to talk about disaffiliation if asked is also almost entirely not true (again, I’m not naive enough to believe that it doesn’t happen but such “intimidation” is not widespread). At the request of our general conference delegation, there will be gatherings throughout the state to discuss specifics related to disaffiliation, largely to dispel the rumors and fear mongering going around. Frankly, this should not be necessary but since GMC is not doing anything to discourage such fear mongering, it is.

Having worked in radio broadcasting and gaining extensive marketing experience as a result, I can spot a campaign when I see one. When different people are saying similar things and changing to a different topic at the same time, it’s intentional and straight out of a marketing playbook. GMC needs to stop this foolishness. I emphasize once again: Lying is a sin.

Stop claiming that those who remain in the UMC are unfaithful

More than once, me and colleagues who have expressed that we desire to remain in the UMC have been told that our souls are on the line. I’ve been called a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and told that I’m leading my people straight to hell more times than I can count. Laity also have been told similar things. There are people truly telling others that, should they remain in the UMC, they are at risk of losing their salvation (I can’t help but notice that many of these comments come from anonymous trolls on various social platforms). This kind of spiritual manipulation is sickening and unloving. GMC needs to denounce this kind of behavior and actively work to stop it.

The bottom line: Show love.

Why is an organization that claims to be more faithful to the teachings of Jesus participating in such activities or allowing them to happen in their name? You’re either with Christ or against Him. You’re either trying to build His kingdom or one of your own making. If GMC is truly about Jesus and nothing more, they will see that truth wins out. To do otherwise is to be complicit in sin. My hope and prayer is that love and charity are shown. Brothers and sisters, stand for truth. Don’t stand for fear and manipulation. Any gains made through such means are ill-gotten and, well, scripture has plenty to say about that too.

In Christ,

Rev. Jonathan Tullos
Elder in Full Connection, Mississippi Annual Conference of the UMC

Disaffiliation: What About the Rural Church?

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As the United Methodist Church has fully entered the annual conference session season, much of the talk has been about churches choosing to disaffiliate from the UMC. While there are exceptions such as Mt. Bethel in the North Georgia Annual Conference, many of the churches choosing to leave under Paragraph 2553 of the current Book of Discipline are small and/or rural. In the decade that I’ve been serving as a United Methodist pastor, almost all of my appointments have been to small rural churches, so I have seen first-hand the challenges these congregations face. Many are in areas that have been in decline for years, and can not even afford to pay a full-time salary for a pastor without going on a charge (for non-UM folks: This means they team up with other congregations to form a circuit, whereby they share a pastor and expenses such as salary and housing). Because of these factors and more, I am greatly concerned that these congregations will be the most harmed by this mess.

And, frankly, I don’t believe many of the people in these congregations fully understand what they are getting into by going independent or joining a fledgling denomination.

I’ve heard from several colleagues who have shared stories that only add to my concern. One such story came from a now-former DS who was meeting with a congregation that had indicated they would like to discern disaffiliation and the possibility of becoming independent. This congregation was receiving salary support through equitable compensation funds provided by their conference so that they could afford a full-time pastor. My friend indicated that they were not only surprised to learn that they would no longer receive these funds but that they would not receive a newly appointed pastor from their annual conference when their then-current pastor left. Somehow, they assumed they would continue to receive conference support after disaffiliation.

I wish I was making this up.

I heard another colleague tell of their bishop having a conversation with leaders from a denomination that was wishing to disaffiliate. This is a congregation that had been around for approximately 150 years. The bishop reminded them that one of the reasons they had likely survived for so long was receiving an estimated 70 appointed clergy during that time and the fact that United Methodist clergy must be held accountable for actions they take which are detrimental to the church. By being independent, they would not have such safeguards and likely have a difficult time hiring their own pastor due to their remote location.

Yet another former DS related a story of a congregation within his annual conference that was choosing to fight the trust clause in court and “they have spent more money on legal fees than if they had simply gone through the disaffiliation process.” Whoever is giving them advice clearly does not have their best interests in mind, but because they have refused to cooperate with the annual conference to reach a settlement, they are incurring debt at a fast rate that will possibly endanger their future viability.

I truly do not believe that many of these congregations and clergy who are choosing to disaffiliate fully understand what will happen once they sever their relationship with their annual conference. My fear is that once they realize the gravity of their decision, it will be too late and the harm will have been irrevocably done. For me, this is not preserving an institution. Expressing my concerns is about doing my part to educate people on this issue that should not be taken lightly and begun flippantly. This is about doing what I can to minimize the harm done to these precious bodies of saints who deserve the best support and pastoral leadership they can possibly have.

And let me add that most of the decisions and policies made by the breakoff denomination seem to be best suited for large churches in suburban areas. There is very little that I’ve seen that has been done with rural congregations in mind. Within the Global Methodist Church, congregations will be mostly responsible for finding clergy from a list of available clergy provided by their GMC annual conference. The congregation and clergyperson will have to reach an agreement on salary, etc. that will have to be approved by the bishop and cabinet. However, that congregation will not receive a clergyperson under appointment, at least not in the way the UMC currently appoints pastors. If a congregation can’t find a clergyperson willing to serve their congregation, it seems they will not receive much, if any, assistance from the annual conference beyond providing a list. Clergy will not be sent to an appointment under the GMC system. It’s nothing more than a call system with a few more hoops to jump through.

Rural churches, hear me: If you decide to disaffiliate at this point, you will quickly find out that you will be on your own in every way imaginable. You will have to find your own clergy, which will be a huge challenge given that many rural and/or small churches simply can not pay enough for a full-time pastor on their own and are in areas where many people simply do not want to relocate to (and let me be very clear: This is NOT a reflection on my current appointment if any of my people see this. This is simply a fact for many rural and small congregations). While you certainly won’t have to pay apportionments or submit yearly reports anymore, you will find out that benefits such as conference-provided health insurance for your pastor will be an expense you will have to provide on your own; you also will no longer be covered under conference liability and property insurance, which also tends to be very expensive for churches. Many of the other safety nets you currently have – such as assistance with compensation to afford a full-time pastor – will be gone.

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, not without a bunch of manure being spread.

I’m certain some people are going to bristle at what I have to say and that’s their prerogative. However, I believe that a lot of this has not been said, and it’s been to the detriment of people who make up small and rural congregations who may want to float the idea of disaffiliation. Consent is either informed or it is invalid. Again, my hope is that no more harm comes to any of our churches for any reason.

One of my concerns has always been that the rural church be represented and cared for in the same way as larger suburban and urban churches. From the floor of annual conference this year, I advocated for as much when we had an opportunity to codify diversity on our delegations to general and jurisdictional conferences, one of those means of diversity being congregation size and setting (the measure ultimately failed, unfortunately). I said that the rural church is largely not being well represented currently and it’s not. But know that the rural church won’t be represented at all by leaving for the new denomination on the block.

It’s not time to leave.

Sometimes, Distraction Is a Choice

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Over and over as the chasm between conservative, centrist, and progressive factions within the United Methodist Church has been growing, the word that keeps being thrown around over and over is: “Distraction.” On both sides of the theological aisle, churches have left with “the distraction of the continued debate on LGBTQ inclusion” cited as a primary reason. They claim that the “distraction” of the debate has prevented them from effectively ministering and otherwise working for God’s kingdom.

Has it, now?

My response was (note: I have protected my Twitter account so my response is copied and pasted):

I have maintained throughout that anything is only a distraction if one allows it to me (sic). Anyone who says any of this has kept them from doing the work of the kingdom is admitting thay they have allowed the enemy to win.

Here’s the thing: Ministry must still be done regardless of our desire to engage in endless debates and discussions over human sexuality. Now, I’m not saying that these conversations aren’t important. What I am saying is that when one chooses to make this the sole focus of their life, then, yes, they are distracted from the work that God has called us all to undertake.

“Distraction” is a choice.

The truth is, all of this is only a distraction if we one allows it to be. For me, I have discussions about denominational things from time to time, but I spend much more of my time talking about Jesus and the gospel. I do this because I have chosen to not allow human sexuality debates to be what keeps me from ministering to the people in my midst and to those outside it I’m able to reach. Simply, anyone who cites the “distraction” of LGBTQ inclusion as why they want to leave or why the church should split is admitting defeat. At the end of the day, no matter how many pieces the UMC is carved into, things are going to continue to come up. If it’s not LGBTQ inclusion, it will be something else later on. Then what? Are we going to keep splitting and not doing God’s work because we’re “distracted” by something new?

Citing “distraction” is an admission that one has allowed the enemy to win. You better believe the enemy finds this hilarious, a joke at your expense. Or, perhaps, at the expense of your witness.

Let’s do better, church.