United Methodists in Libera are rallying behind the denomination's separation plan into traditional and progressive denominations, with leaders in the North African church insisting that they must embrace God's truth above man's error – even if it means going their separate ways.
Several amendments were pressed in a declaration during the Liberian Annual Conference on February 16 – in response to the denomination's Protocol proposal for the church's separation – and the most important point was impressed, as follows:
"[For] the common good of the global UMC, we support the need for an arranged separation, since we can no longer exist and function as one denomination; cognizant of the fact that, 'It is better to be separated on truth than to be united on error,'" Liberian Methodists declared.
In addition, better terms were demanded for United Methodists in Liberia, who will be joining a new traditionalist denomination.
Man's doctrine in U.S. diminishing UMC
When looking at the numbers, it becomes apparent that man's separation from God's Word has diminished the membership of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in the United States, while adherence to principles laid out in the Bible has burgeoned membership throughout the African continent.
Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD) president Mark Tooley stresses how parting from God's teaching on human sexuality to embrace the politically correct humanistic approach laid out in the LGBTQ agenda has depleted numbers from the UMC for decades.
"United Methodism has over 12.5 million members globally – nearly half of whom are in Africa, where the church is growing, while the church loses nearly 100,000 members annually in the U.S.," Tooley writes in IRD's blog, Juicy Ecumenism.
"Unlike other USA Mainline Protestant denominations, United Methodism has not liberalized sexually, thanks to growing traditionalist overseas churches that align with USA evangelicals."
As Methodist church leadership in America continues to embrace same-sex "marriage" and LGBTQ doctrine above God's Word on the matter, those ascribing to biblical authority on the matter remain stalwart that no concessions be made to accommodate the progressive bent.
"Last year's special General Conference – organized by USA bishops with hopes of sexual liberalization – instead tightened church teachings affirming sex only within male-female marriage," Tooley notes. "Since then, there's been a growing consensus that the denomination must divide between conservative and liberal wings."
A parting strategy is already in the works, says the IRD leader.
"The Protocol – unveiled last month [and] backed by USA conservative and liberal caucus groups – would create a new traditional Methodist denomination, while liberals would inherit the current United Methodist bureaucracy," Tooley states. "All local conferences and local churches could vote themselves into the traditionalist church – by 57% for conferences and majority vote for congregations – who would retain their properties."
The Liberians' stance
Faithful Liberians made no concessions to their liberal counterparts in America and decided to part ways with Methodists ascribing to sexual libertinism in their theology.
"By unanimous vote of 725 delegates representing 148,000 United Methodists, the Liberian Annual Conference urged amending the Protocol by allowing Africans who join the traditionalist church to retain United Methodism's name and logo with 'appropriate modifications,'" Tooley reports.
In addition, Liberian Methodists noted the inequitable division of denominational assets and called for a fairer distribution.
"The Protocol assigns $25 million from post-schism United Methodism to the new traditionalist church," Tooley points out. "Liberia suggested that instead, $120 million in undesignated assets from church agencies be divided evenly among five USA jurisdictions and seven global central conferences."
"Liberia also insisted that central conferences and annual conferences should be able to join the traditionalist church by majority vote – not by two-thirds required for central conferences and 57% for annual conferences by the Protocol," the head of IRD adds.
The Liberians argued that Central Conferences of Africa "are traditionalists by law and by vote since the birth of the UMC in Africa, and do not, therefore, need to reaffirm its evangelical/conservative status – as required by the Protocol."
It continued: "[A]ny attempt to align or subjugate all Central Conferences and their annual conferences and congregations to a post-separation UMC by default – as the Protocol proposes – would be viewed as an act of colonialism and injustice against the Central Conferences."
The Liberians also reaffirmed their support for the UMC's official teaching on sex and marriage.
"[We affirm UMC teaching] consistent with the Holy Bible and the traditional understanding and practice of the Christian church for more than 2,000 years, and our current Book of Discipline, [that] 'marriage is defined as a sacred relationship between one man and one woman – not between any two consenting adults' – [and upholding the] traditional understanding and teachings of the Christian church in our theology, polity, requirements for Ordination and Christian living," the Liberian Methodists declared.
According to Tooley, the liberal Methodist leadership banked on Africans being led by money over morals.
"Some USA and African bishops have assumed and hoped that much of Africa would stay with post-schism United Methodism for financial reasons," Tooley notes. "The unanimous vote in Liberia signals that Africa would be unwilling to remain with liberalized United Methodism – and instead wants better terms for Africans joining a new traditionalist church."
In May, the General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will further discuss the Protocol and other proposals concerning the schism.