A version of this post originally appeared on my Facebook Page on March 21, 2023.
UM News reported that the Eurasia and Estonia United Methodists Churches have begun the process of leaving the denomination.
However, if you recall, there was a Judicial Council ruling that stated that Annual Conferences could not leave as a whole, it had to be individual churches. But, this ruling only applied to United States Churches. This is because we allow for Central Conferences (non-US collections of annual conferences similar to Jurisdictions) to change their relationship with the denomination.
We have had central and annual conferences join and leave the denomination over the course of our 50+ year history. This was a gathering of the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference.
From the Article:
“The delegates voted for the church regional bodies of the Central Russia, the Northwest Russia and Belarus Provisional, the Eastern Russia and Central Asia Provisional, and the South Russia Provisional annual conferences (as well as the Estonia district under a different provision) to become autonomous.”
Some of the churches within these Annual Conferences plan on staying, and wanted the right to set their own standards for ordination and marriage, but this was voted down, as we are connectional denomination. This process is not complete, as General Conference must approve this departure (similar to who annual conferences have to approve disaffiliation), except for Estonia (which has it’s own set of rules more like our disaffiliation process in the US). Incidentally, the United Methodist News article says something that I have been suggesting for years, “In many ways, the March 18 votes are emblematic of growing strains in the wider world and the wider denomination.”
.We must, as a denomination, begin to reckon with the reality of a global church that is richly diverse but reeling from colonization and globalization. The issues of gender and sexuality are the tip of the iceberg. The reality is, we still centralize our money, resources, offices, and, most importantly/dangerously, our worldview in the United States. If we cannot begin to see the importance of decentralizing our understanding, we won’t be able to face the realities of a mid-twenty-first century landscape.
It feels like we’re operating under a mid-20th century landscape, and a lot has happened since 1968 when we were founded. The US church is struggling for a lot of different reasons, and it can’t seem to see that Christianity is growing in the world, because it is so focused on itself. As much as I want rural churches at the forefront of the conversation, I also want us to know that the church is not just in the USA.