Like Buying a Pig in a Poke

Disclaimer: My non-United Methodist friends might want to skip this Monday Memo–sorry, come back next week.

I don’t remember my grandparents saying it, but it’s a classic Western Pennsylvania expression. A “poke” is a bag or a sack, so when you buy something you haven’t seen, it’s like buying a pig in a poke. You don’t know what you’ve got until you get it home.

I’ve thought about that as I have observed congregations voting to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church with the intent of joining the Global Methodist Church. Do they really know what they are buying?

First, disaffiliation means you are literally on your own. For churches choosing to remain independent, it will mean getting their own 501.c.3, clergy health care, insurance and a host of other expenses. Then, joining the Global Methodist Church will include agreeing to certain doctrinal and disciplinary positions, paramount of which is their opposition to LGBT inclusion. But until they hold their Convening Conference, the GMC is being run by a 17 member Transitional Leadership Team, so it’s hard to say just what you are joining.

In fairness, the GMC does outline what it plans to become:

a denomination with “enhanced accountability” regarding what gets preached and what people believe, expecting everyone to be “like-minded”. Congregations and clergy can be kicked out if they don’t toe the line.

a connection with smaller apportionments, although until they know what their conferences and administration will look like, or even how many churches will join, I am not sure how you can know. That will be especially true if some African Conferences which are heavily dependent on US support choose to join. (And if I were an African United Methodist I would take that into consideration before signing on.)

a church with little “top-down leadership.” Rather than a typical Methodist conference, it will be more of a voluntary association where churches are free to join or leave whenever they like. Since they reject “onerous bureaucracy”, there will be minimal support services, no mission agency, almost none of the structures United Methodists rely on to function as a truly global church.

a modified form of pastoral appointment more akin to the Presbyterians. Without the guarantee of pastoral appointment, churches should wonder where their next pastor will come from and younger clergy can rightly ask where they might be able to serve for a lifetime in ministry. With no General Board of Higher Education to offer the Course of Study for Local Pastors, where will clergy training take place?

a smaller denomination based in the South. In 2022, about 2,000 churches voted to disaffiliate and the GMC projects another 1,000 this year–that’s out of 30,000+ UM churches in the USA. Since some disaffiliating churches will remain independent or join other denominations, it’s hard to predict how many churches will finally join the GMC. To date, it appears that most of the disaffiliating churches are in Texas, North Carolina and Florida, so churches in areas like Michigan might wonder what it will be like to be part of a denomination with a southern, regional base rather than a broad, national base.

I could be wrong, but with so many unknowns, it feels a bit like buying a pig in a poke to me.

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–Join us at First UMC Birmingham, Feb. 5, 7:00pm in person and on-line www.fumcbirmingham.org.

4 thoughts on “Like Buying a Pig in a Poke

  1. Gary S

    You have some interesting speculations here. Actually, you have “drawn logical inferences” (as I teach my students). Will they pan out? Will the UMC loyalists be vindicated? There’s also the question of gullibility. Are you arguing that the UMC financial model will sustain itself and churches supplied with labor without increased apportionments? (Doesn’t pass the “willing suspension of disbelief” test.) Do you really believe the present thin crust of United Methodism will “just go on . . . and on”? (Living off QCDs?) Finally, are you making implicit promises to the Africans about future funding as in “promise them anything”?

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

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