Divorce, Methodist Style

My non-United Methodist readers can opt out now, or hopefully they will be patient as we United (or Untied) Methodists try to work out the settlement agreements for churches seeking a divorce from the denomination. Because one of the exit procedures expires the end of the year, some congregations around the country are trying to settle it ASAP. We are discovering divorce is always messy and “breaking up is hard to do”.

For those who are considering it, here are a couple questions I would ask:

  1. The Trust Clause is a favorite whipping boy of the folks who want to leave, but I would ask, “Has the trust clause ever kept you from building what you needed to build for the sake of your ministry? Or did your work with the District Committee on Church Location actually help you perfect your plan?”

2. If your church is thriving now, obviously being United Methodist hasn’t been a problem, so how will leaving the UMC make it better? And if your church is not thriving now, will changing denominations make a difference?

3. So some preacher or Bishop said something you disagreed with, did that ever keep you from doing effective ministry in your community?

4. Who gets the house? Unless your church was built recently, you are the inheritors of property some else paid for. Those folks did so with the promise the property would remain United Methodist (ie, the Trust Clause again) and now you want to take it with you free and clear. Doesn’t the other party in the marriage as represented by the Annual Conference deserve something in return?

5. What about your next partner/preacher? The highest estimate I have seen for the Global Methodist Church is about 5,000 churches nation-wide with about the same number of clergy. Currently, the UMC has 32,000 churches and 83,000 clergy (including retirees). In many divorces, folks think they will find a better partner someplace else, but in a smaller denomination, where will you find your next partner/preacher?

5. Blaming the spouse is fairly typical in any divorce. If you feel you need to leave, then leave but at some point, please stop blaming and bad-mouthing the bishops, the conference, the folks you disagree with. Own your decision and move on, hopefully to a more positive future and allow your former partner to do the same.

The worldwide family of churches in the Wesleyan tradition includes more than 80 denominations so adding one more in the form of the Global Methodist Church probably isn’t the end of the world. I do, however, regret watching the largest and most truly global denomination break up over one issue–homosexuality. We should have been able to find a way to live together and love together and serve together without going through all of this. Since more unites us than divides us, we should have been able to keep the family together.

And I do believe one day our grandchildren will scratch their heads and ask, “Exactly why did you get a divorce, anyway?”

6 thoughts on “Divorce, Methodist Style

  1. E C

    “Unless your church was built recently, you are the inheritors of property some else paid for. Those folks did so with the promise the property would remain United Methodist (ie, the Trust Clause again) and now you want to take it with you free and clear.” That would be a good point so long as we do not consider how those folks would view a UMC willing to appoint gay practicing pastors (on occasion, in drag) and allow same sex weddings within the confines of the church they built.

    Reply
    1. LBH

      Safe assumption since you can’t ask them. But a risky argument when you consider how much clearer their understanding of Jesus was. My bet is you’re wrong. And apparently afraid of that much love.

      Reply
  2. Pingback: UM Fallout: A Compendium – People Need Jesus

  3. Mark A. Rains, PhD

    Divorce, Methodist Style
    My non-United Methodist readers can opt out now, or hopefully they will be patient as we United (or Untied) Methodists try to work out the settlement agreements for churches seeking a divorce from the denomination. Because one of the exit procedures expires the end of the year, some congregations around the country are trying to settle it ASAP. We are discovering divorce is always messy and “breaking up is hard to do”.
    For those who are considering it, here are a couple questions I would ask:
    1) The Trust Clause is a favorite whipping boy of the folks who want to leave, but I would ask, “Has the trust clause ever kept you from building what you needed to build for the sake of your ministry? Or did your work with the District Committee on Church Location actually help your perfect?” (sic)
    ANSWER: If you retained the “originalist” purpose of the Trust clause, would that challenge your perspective or the perspective of any others?
    2. If your church is thriving now, obviously being United Methodist hasn’t been a problem, so how will leaving the UMC make it better? And if your church is not thriving now, will changing denominations make a difference?
    ANSWER: Whatever happened, however, to the principal of the matter? Such a musing lacks, with all due respect, minimizing its historicity with its Midrashic and rabbinical hermeneutic. Of course, with such a supposition, consequently, it’s an easy leap to real time inner-biblical exegesis (to which we can thank or unthank, Michael Fishbane); somewhat a hermeneutical oxymoron, wouldn’t you say?
    3. So some preacher or Bishop said something you disagreed with, did that ever keep you from doing effective ministry in your community?
    ANSWER: “Come on man!” Get a Bud and get a grip! You’re already on the “slippery slope”. Sounds more like the mores of a particular Jurisdiction, than the body of Christ!
    4. Who gets the house? Unless your church was built recently, you are the inheritors of property some else paid for.
    ANSWER: A little off on your calculus, friend. Most of those small little churches were built for free, by those who lived there 100+ years ago.
    Those folks did so with the promise the property would remain United Methodist
    ANSWER: (sic—only 55 years in existence—simple math, Jack—and if you think they believed what we “common folk” believe [ie, the Trust Clause again], you did inhale and just “outed yourself!).
    No, such churches were built by another generation, generations or most likely several generations before this time. Perhaps you never served a five—point charge to which I had the privilege. [But the accusation, “we want to take it free and clear?] ” … Doesn’t the other party in the marriage as represented by the Annual Conference deserve something in return?”
    ANSWER: Just like the world, Jack. Quid Pro Quo. I love and serve the Lord without thinking of reward. What didn’t you learn about “disinterested piety” at Asbury? A few more Bible courses would have helped at a time like this.
    5. What about your next partner/preacher? The highest estimate I have seen for the Global Methodist Church is about 5,000 churches nation-wide with about the same number of clergy. Currently, the UMC has 32,000 churches and 83,000 clergy (including retirees). In many divorces, folks think they will find a better partner someplace else, but in a smaller denomination, where will you find your next partner/preacher?
    ANSWER: From a counseling standpoint, I agree with your rudimentary point. However, my spouse, the one to whom I am married, will forever be my bride.”
    In the midst “worldly wiseman”, there is always another place to share in the diving intimacy, if you simply humble yourself.
    5. Blaming the spouse is fairly typical in any divorce. If you feel you need to leave, then leave but at some point, please stop blaming and bad-mouthing the bishops, the conference, the folks you disagree with (sic). Own your decision and move on (sic), hopefully to a more positive future and allow your former partner to do the same.
    The worldwide family of churches in the Wesleyan tradition includes more than 80 denominations so adding one more in the form of the Global Methodist Church probably isn’t the end of the world. I do, however, regret watching the largest and most truly global denomination [hyperbolic, to say the least] break up over one issue–homosexuality. We should have been able to find a way to live together and love together and serve together without going through all of this. Since more unites us than divides us, we should have been able to keep the family together.
    ANSWER: “Sounds” all well and good, Jack (OT metaphor). Most sadly, however, you’re a living quid pro quo.
    And I do believe one day our grandchildren will scratch their heads and ask, “Exactly why did you get a divorce, anyway?”
    ANSWER: Because your father or grandfather didn’t have the hutzpah. Like the ole saying goes with a further adaptation: “If you’re not going to stand for something Jack [as an Asburian], you’ll fall for anything.” Love you brother.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Mark A. Rains

    Reply

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