On January 11th, 2023 the Global Methodist Church announced that “United Methodist Bishop Scott Jameson Jones, the former leader of the UM Church’s Great Plains and Houston Episcopal Areas, has resigned from the episcopacy of the church and withdrawn from the denomination. Jones was received into the Global Methodist Church as an elder on January 9, 2023.”

The article went on to say that Bishop Jones has been appointed a bishop in the Global Methodist Church. This is the second bishop to move from the United Methodist Church to the Global Methodist Church this year.

Bishop Jones is recognized as a renowned Wesleyan scholar. I’ve taught his study, The Wesleyan Way, in churches I have served. In seminary I read his book on United Methodist doctrine.

What makes this move significant is the work Bishop Jones did as a United Methodist Bishop. Bishop Jones had positioned himself as someone who wanted to hold the extreme center position theologically.. In his book on United Methodist doctrine the title is United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center

In United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center he says, “At its best, United Methodist doctrine holds together a number of concerns in dynamic and mutually reinforcing tension. On the theological spectrum Wesley occupies the extreme center, and his approach has shaped the church’s doctrine” (19).

Bishop Jones also has leaned into this centrist branding on his website called extremecenter.com.

Finally, Bishop Jones expanded his ideas in a book of essays called Stay at the Table where he dialogues with other Methodist thinkers.

Yet, Bishop Jones has made the decision to leave the United Methodist Church and join the Global Methodist Church. By moving he is demonstrating how his views align better in the Global Methodist Church. This more than any person moving. This is the extreme center poster child himself moving out.

Bishop Jones said recently “The Global Methodist Church represents traditional Methodism with a strong focus on reaching new people for the gospel… It is a new start that will help clergy and congregations move past the disputes of the last several years and focus on our mission. I am excited about forming disciples who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.”

Bishop Jones has been gracious about his time in the UMC which I believe is the right tract to take. I am grateful he is bringing his strong leadership, deep doctrinal standards, and episcopal oversight to the Global Methodist Church.


David Wesley Donnan is a Methodist pastor in South Georgia.

You can read more from David about the Future of Methodism HERE.

Listen to David’s Podcast HERE.

See David’s Youtube page HERE.

Follow David on Twitter and Facebook.

On Dissafilating Well

January 13, 2023

Several preachers have reached out to me to inquire about my church’s process for leaving the United Methodist Church. I have six tips on dissafilating well for pastors whether they plan to go or to stay. Hear my disclaimer first. This is what worked for me in my context. Your mileage may vary.

Here are my six basic tips on dissafilating well.

#1 Be as Clear as Possible 

Andy Stanley in Next Generation Leader has an entire chapter on “Leading in the Shadow of Uncertainty”. 

Stanley argues, “Uncertainty is not an indication of poor leadership; it underscores the need for leadership… The art of clarity involves giving explicit and precise direction in spite of limited information and unpredictable outcomes.” 1

The disaffiliation process is long and confusing. One of the ways a preacher can help their church is by clearly explaining the process many times to the church in appropriate context (see #6 below). Be clear on everything you know. Be clear on what you do not know. Just be clear as you can in all areas possible.

#2 Be Openly Bias

I have a hard time believing when someone claims to be an unbiased source or participant. Instead take some time to disclose your biases. For me, this meant I was up front during this process with my church about what I cared about. 

I made it clear I was biased in the process to do what was best for my family. I was biased to be a traditional Wesleyan. I was biased to being connected to other clergy. I was biased toward having meaningful credentialing.  

Then at the conclusion of my disclosed list of biases I would say, “And these are only my known biases. I am sure I have many more unknown ones that I am not even aware of.”

This builds integrity with your listeners and helps them to understand the lens you are sharing from.

#3 Be as Charitable as Possible

There are ample opportunities to cast your opponents on dissafilation in the worst possible light. Resist the urge to do this. Plenty of moments will arise where you have to firmly push back and say, “I disagree with your conclusion” and that is fine. 

One of my practices is to try to “steel man” the other sides argument. Steel man means to try to think about the strongest point of the other sides argument. 

There are several lazy arguments against the Global Methodist Church such as “it’s only a website”, “it does not exist yet”, or “they are a bunch of bigots”. There have been lazy arguments and uncharitable attacks on those who want to remain.

Rev. Dr. James Howell has a powerful story where he talks about how someone he ministered to emailed him and said, “We thought you were a believer who preached the word and accepted Jesus as the divine son of God. But after learning you’re still in the United Methodist Church, we are shocked that you now believe Scripture is not the Word of God.” 

This would not demonstrate being as charitable as possible. 

Towards the end of Howell’s reflection he says, “Our sisters and brothers who are disaffiliating are more like us than we realize: operating out of hidden fears, we all rush to judgment against those who aren’t us.”

#4 Empower the Church to Decide

One of the beautiful parts of the process is that it gives an opportunity to have their voice heard. They can be heard through their elected members of the administrative board or by the entire church vote. 

Either way, their voices will be heard. They are the ones making the decision and the pastor does not even vote. The church decides on the future. 

It is important to consistently remind the church it is their responsibility to figure out who it is God is calling them to be. It will be their theological task to decide what the next steps are.

#5 Go Along on the Journey with Your Leaders

I truly felt I was along the journey with my church. This meant we were discerning and learning together. The situation for leaving the United Methodist Church is fluid. It changes when bishops set new precedents by acting in bad faith. The situation is altered when conference trustees meet to work on the dissafilation policy. The environment shifts when the judicial council has a ruling.

For us this meant taking 5-10 minutes in our administrative board meeting giving updates and pondering how this may shift our discussion or timeline for who we are called to be.

As you can imagine this has taken enormous amounts of general church energy. However, I am afraid there are few faithful alternatives that I have found. The sands on the shore of Methodism are shifting as much as the tide on St. Simons Island.

Important Note: All of your key leaders need to be a part of these conversations. One of the most important people to have involved is legal counsel as a part of your discussions. I highly recommend having a lawyer early in your process.

#6 Keep Your In-house Conversations In-house

Finally, limit the conversation as much as possible on Sunday morning. We had said early on that having these conversations in worship was the equivalent of having guests over for supper then pulling out the budget and going over expenses.

We tried our best to educate our church with around twelve different in person opportunities to hear, discuss, and learn from bishops, district superintendents, and other pastors. However, these were not part of Sunday morning worship. Announce the opportunity then move on to other elements of your worship service.

Concluding Thought

Pastor friends, please know I am praying for you. This is an incredibly hard season to be in ministry. 

There are no perfect answers or flawless playbooks. At the end of the day you can only do your best to serve the Lord. 

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or if you believe I can help elevate your church’s conversation during this season.

Sources:

1 – Stanley, Andy Next Generation Leader Page 79-80

Christmas Message 2022

December 24, 2022

Here is video of the sermon from Christmas Eve on Sunday, December 24th, 2022 at Glennville Methodist Church. Full Manuscript text is below the video.

Here is the text of my sermon manuscript for Christmas Eve worship services on Saturday, December 24th, 2022 at Glennville Methodist Church. Early children had read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20.

What would you do if you accidentally became Santa Claus? If you have to deliver all the presents around the world? That is the scenario that was in the Tim Allen family comedy The Santa Claus. It is fascinating because he becomes Santa Claus because he accidentally startles the current Santa on the roof calling him to fall to Santa’s demise and now according to the rules Tim Allen’s character must now become the new Santa Claus. And in the journey Tim Allen’s character learns a little about being a better dad and we all learn a little about Christmas.

The Santa Claus cinematic universe set up an interesting scenario. If you are beside Santa Claus when he meets his end you have to become the next Santa Claus. What if the next person was someone who does not celebrate Christmas. What if it’s a child? What if it’s someone who just escaped prison and they were serving a life time sentence? These are all scenarios that are possible in this universe. It is such a bizarre scenario that this year Disney plus released a limited series with some of the original cast and they tried to retcon, change the original story, to make it sound like just anyone can not become a Santa Claus by accident.

Friends, here is the good news for Christmas. There are no mistakes with God. You are not some accident that magically falls into earth. No, God has made you for this very moment. He has made you with purpose.

One of the interesting stories I read early on in my tenure here in Glennville was about how we had appealed our census data here. During the disruption of the pandemic it seemed hundreds of residents in the Smith prison were not accounted for which would affect our federal funding and more in our community.

Everyone counts to God. Christmas is the reminder of this. No one is created on accident and everyone counts to God. 

Now this is pretty important especially on a day like today. I know this has been a pretty challenging year for some in our community. For my family we were blessed to celebrate Brand’y mom’s 60th birthday only to have her die suddenly a few short weeks later. 

Grief is a hard thing to deal with. It is also a strange thing to deal with. There are moments when we feel like Sandra may walk right in. There are moments like at Lydia’s Christmas dance recital where we are used to seeing Sandra go and stand down front elbowing others out of the way, standing in the aisle to get the video on her phone, even though we knew she heard the announcement not to do that.

In the same way we have had grief in our family this past year we also know the world continues to grieve. Thousands of Russians were conscripted to go fight the so-called “special military operation” or war in Ukraine. Ukrainians have limited power, water, and resources to stay warm in the dead of winter and we know American families who have had loved ones deployed as part of a surge of troops to serve as deterrence for Russian advancing further. 

It is in the midst of our broken world, in the midst of our own lives, that we need to hear the Christmas message this year. We need to hear that we are not here by accident and that we matter to God and the life of Jesus proves this.

Consider the broken world that Jesus was born into. We would expect for a king or the son of a king to be born in a palace in a safe and secure area. Yet, Jesus is born into a barn. We’ve talked about Herod the past few Sundays. He was the ruler over the area Jesus is born into. He had a palace, the Herodium, where he would be able to look over the town of Bethlehem. So we have this juxtaposition of earthly power, political skills, military might with Jesus, humble, lowly surroundings, no leaders coming out celebrate his birth but stinky shepherds… and not even the day shift, the B-team, the night crew.

Jesus came into the broken world for you and for me. We are not an accident and Jesus came for each one of us.

He came so that we can learn from Christ’s teachings but ultimately he came to save us. We matter to God because Jesus comes to help us with the one thing we can never do and that is to save ourselves. DA Carson has this quote about Jesus. He says:

If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.

This means tonight you can accept the greatest gift off all, salvation from Jesus. It means you do not have to try harder this upcoming year but instead be more open to God’s leading. And it starts by asking to receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and making Christ the Lord over your entire life.

It also means we do not have to worry about accidentally becoming Santa Claus. We do not have to worry if we are accidents. That we can live lives with purpose. Even if we have had an incredibly tough year.

There was a New York state trooper who was dispatched for a 911 call during a storm. A motorist was in a car that went into a ditch and the snow plow came by and completely buried the car. The man had poor reception and called 911 several times but kept getting disconnected.

They were able to track him down to a several mile area but the trooper just had to keep looking through piles of snow to try to find the car.

After 10 hours the motorist was rescued by the trooper and it was just in the nick of time. You see the motorist car shut off from being buried in snow. The man was not able to get out and got so cold that his body quit shivering. 

This is very dangerous because it means your body is starting to shut down. Thankfully the trooper got him in the police car and warmed him up until they could connect to EMS.

Friends, I know this has been a tough year. But do not give up. You may feel like you are an accident, struggling with grief, doubt, loneliness or buried in snow. But do not give up. We have good news.

As Christians, even if we do not feel it in our hearts at times, we can say it with integrity, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Merry Christmas!