By Thomas Lambrecht
September 8, 2021
What will the proposed new Global Methodist Church look like? How will it operate? In what ways will it be different from what we have been accustomed to in The United Methodist Church?
These questions weigh on the minds of people who are thinking about the option of aligning with the GM Church after the UM Church’s 2022 General Conference likely adoption of the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.
Forming a new denomination essentially from scratch is a difficult and complex undertaking. Most United Methodists have never read the Book of Discipline; they trust their pastor, district superintendent, and bishop to know how the church is supposed to run. Therefore, comparing provisions in the UM Church’s 800-page Book of Discipline with the GM Church’s shorter Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline would be a tedious task for most United Methodists.
That is why we have undertaken to produce a comprehensive comparison chart that summarizes the main provisions of the UM Church’s Book of Discipline, the GM Church’s Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline, and proposals from the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s draft “Book of Doctrines and Discipline.” The chart shows how most of the important provisions of church governance are handled in the UM Church compared with how they would be handled in the GM Church during a transitional period from launch to its convening General Conference, and how the new church is likely to function after its convening General Conference.
It is important to keep the three documents clear in our understanding. The Book of Discipline governs how UM Church functions today. It was adopted by the 2016 General Conference (with a few revisions in 2019) and is the result of an evolutionary process extending back to the very first Discipline in 1808. We do not know what the UM Church’s Book of Discipline will look like after the realignment contemplated by the Protocol is accomplished.
As noted above, the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline will govern how the GM Church functions from its inception until its convening General Conference meets (an approximately one-to-two-year period). It borrows some features from the UM Discipline and some ideas from the WCA’s draft “Book of Doctrines and Discipline.” It was drafted by a three-person writing team and then amended and approved by the Transitional Leadership Council, which is the governing body for the GM Church from now through the transition to its convening General Conference.
In order to minimize the amount of change congregations would experience during the transitional period, the Transitional Leadership Council sought to maintain continuity with the current UM Discipline where it made sense. At the same time, some critically important reforms were incorporated in the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline.
Ultimately, the GM Church’s convening General Conference, composed of delegates elected from among those who align with the new church, will have the authority to formally adopt a new, more permanent Book of Doctrines and Discipline. It will undoubtedly build upon the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline, the WCA’s recommendations, and other ideas laity and clergy wish to propose.
The comparison chart is meant to be an easy way to compare how the GM Church will function during the transition, and it gives an indication of some of the directions envisioned for its future. The chart may be reproduced and shared freely. Questions and feedback are welcome and can be sent to email@example.com.
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson, the vice president of Good News, and a member of the WCA’s Global Council.