Conservative advocacy group to quit taking part in UMC General Conference after 2024

Delegates pray before a plenary session at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
Delegates pray before a plenary session at the United Methodist Church's 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. | Facebook/United Methodist General Conference

A prominent theologically conservative advocacy group will no longer be active at the United Methodist Church General Conference after this year’s churchwide legislative gathering.

Good News, a conservative UMC publication and advocacy group founded in the 1960s, isn't planning to participate in future UMC General Conference gatherings after 2024.

“2024 will be the last time we are present at the General Conference,” said Good News President Rob Renfroe, who is still a UMC elder, in an interview with The Christian Post.

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Rob Renfroe, publisher of Good News magazine.
Rob Renfroe, publisher of Good News magazine. | Courtesy Good News

Renfroe explained that at the upcoming General Conference, scheduled for April 23-May 3 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, Good News will lobby for “a fair and just exit path for churches outside the United States.”

“Our bishops ruled that the legislation that was passed in 2019 that allowed churches in the U.S. to disaffiliate does not extend to churches in Africa, The Philippines, Europe, Russia and Asia,” said Renfroe.

“The vast majority of churches in Africa … and many in the other regions I have listed want the same right to self-determination U.S. churches were given. Our work will be to call upon United Methodists of good will to do the right thing and remove this discriminatory policy.”

Another agenda item, according to Renfroe, will be to lobby for extending the provisions of Paragraph 2553, the temporary disaffiliation procedure that allowed congregations to leave the UMC over the debate on sexual ethics. It officially expired at the end of last year.

According to Renfroe, some congregations had been “told by their bishops and district superintendents that they did not need to leave before the deadline,” but could hold off until after General Conference.

“If the GC changes the definition of marriage, which it almost assuredly will, then these churches that trusted their bishops and district superintendents should be given the opportunity to discern God's will for their congregations and leave the denomination if they feel God is leading them to do so,” he continued.

Apart from those points of concern, according to Renfroe, "Good News has no desire to influence the policies or the future of the UMC."

"That is very different from the past when we fought for a biblical view of marriage, high moral standards for ordained clergy, and a host of policies we believed would renew and reform the church," he noted. 

The involvement of Good News and another theologically conservative group known as the Wesleyan Covenant Association at this year’s General Conference has garnered some criticism.

This was based in part on the two groups supporting the recently launched Global Methodist Church, a denomination that has promoted itself as a conservative alternative to the UMC.

Earlier this month, UM News reported that multiple General Conference delegates had objected to the presence of Good News and WCA, in part because of their support for the GMC.

“If you work for Pepsi, you don’t expect to be in the board room where decisions are made for Coca-Cola,” said Pat Luna, an Alabama-West Florida Conference delegate, as quoted by UM News.

“We’re basically charting our path forward to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” said the Rev. Stan Copeland, a North Texas Conference delegate, according to UM News. “Only the ones who are invested in that should be making the decisions.”

Regarding the criticism, Renfroe told CP that, since he and others in the two groups are still technically part of the UMC, “we have every right to be concerned about the life of the United Methodist Church.”

Over the past few decades, the UMC has been embroiled in divisive debate over whether to change its Book of Discipline rules to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

Although efforts to change the rules at General Conference have always been voted down, many theologically liberal clergy have refused to follow or enforce the Book of Discipline standard.

In 2019, at a special session of General Conference, delegates voted to add Paragraph 2553 to the Book of Discipline, which provided a disaffiliation procedure for congregations seeking to leave the UMC over the debate.  

According to numbers compiled by UM News, from 2019 to 2023, more than 7,500 congregations left the denomination via Paragraph 2553, with many joining the GMC.

In 2022, the Confessing Movement, another conservative unofficial caucus within the UMC, announced that they were shutting down, as they viewed the creation of the GMC as fulfilling their mission.

“We feel that our goal has been accomplished,” said Patricia Miller, executive director of the Confessing Movement in a 2023 interview with CP. “We believe, with the launching of the Global Methodist Church, our goal for a faithful denomination has been met.”

“Our goal has been to bring the United Methodist Church into a faithfulness with our doctrine, with our belief about Jesus Christ the Son, Savior and Lord. And so, now, the Global Methodist Church is faithful to that. So, the Global Methodist Church does not need a renewal group.”

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