Liberal leaders within the fractured United Methodist Church denomination, after losing a pivotal vote earlier this year, are not giving up on staying put.
One prominent figure is liberal pastor Adam Hamilton, who leads the largest UMC congregation in the U.S. and has already declared that his 22,000-member Church of the Resurrection is changing with the times.
Speaking to other UMC pastors at a recent leadership conference, Hamilton said his liberal views on human sexuality are centrist and biblical, and he predicted that conservative congregations would leave the denomination and allow for a new interpretation of scripture.
“So we are going to remove from the Book of Discipline,” he announced, “the language that is harmful to human beings, policies that are continuing to bring harm to the LGBTQ community, their family and their friends.”
Perhaps the only agreement within the UMC is that the historic denomination is splitting over the issue of homosexuality and biblical truth, since churches that embrace progressive views are now considered mainstream by UMC leaders. Congregations that reject those views are considered backwards and intolerant, and have been threatened to change or face financial consequences if they refuse.
"Please understand me," Dr. Jerry Kulah, an African bishop, told liberals at the General Conference in February, "when I say the vast majority of African United Methodists will never, ever trade Jesus and the truth of the Bible for money."
Kulah's blunt speech reportedly rallied traditionalists, who felt outnumbered and outmaneuvered by liberals, and biblical orthodoxy is still hanging on within the UMC while liberal Methodists have been forced to regroup.
The pivotal vote in February backed the “Traditional Plan” and rejected the liberal “One Church Plan," and it appeared to be a narrow but undeniable win for traditional, conservative congregations. But liberal Methodists vowed to keep fighting for their beliefs and also for control of millions of dollars in church property, too.
Hamilton predicted at the leadership conference that as many as 6,800 non-woke UMC congregations would leave to form what he called a “new expression of Methodism,” which is actually adherence to thousands of years of Christian orthodoxy.
“And that,” Hamilton said of those churches, “will be a better fit for them.”
UMC layman Mark Tooley, who leads the Institute on Religion and Democracy, tells OneNewsNow that Hamilton and others liberals have formed a new group, UMC Next, which states on its website that the Traditional Plan is “inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ” and hence the group opposes it.
One of the “four commitments” of UMC Next, meanwhile, is to eliminate “discriminatory language” in the Book of Discipline, which mirrors Hamilton’s speech.
“I think that plan,” Tooley says, “is very unlikely to pass.”
Tooley says a second liberal group called UMC Forward is proposing a four-way split among traditionalists, moderates, progressives, and liberationists.
UMC Forward, he says, are the self-described liberationists in that proposed split.