A recently launched theologically conservative alternative to the United Methodist Church is looking to expand its presence into the Southwestern and West Coast of the United States.
The Global Methodist Church, which was launched in 2022 and already has more than 4,200 member congregations, is in the process of expanding its presence in the westernmost states.
This has included recent efforts to plant new churches in the Southwest, as well as the possible creation of a new GMC regional body known as the Western States Provisional District.
GMC Transitional Connectional Officer Keith Boyette told The Christian Post that the Western States Provisional District is in the process of filing formation documents with the GMC’s Transitional Leadership Council, with the goal being for it to begin operations as an official Provisional District on May 3.
“Several of the local churches that will become members of the Western States Provisional District are new church plants; others are ones that disaffiliated from The United Methodist Church and voted to affiliate with the GM Church,” Boyette explained.
According to Boyette, compared with other UMC conferences, the terms for disaffiliation for churches in the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction were “very costly and bureaucratic,” making congregations that sought dismissal face “paying exorbitant fees, taking legal action in the hope of winning release from the UMC, or walking away from properties and assets worth millions of dollars.”
Boyette blamed the current lack of overall Methodism in the Western states on UMC clergy in the region who had “increasingly espoused progressive theological and social stances” starting in the 1970s.
“Free of the rebellion and dysfunction of the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction, the GMC is confident we will plant, grow and multiply local churches in the West. When Methodists hew to their warm-hearted, traditional expression of the Christian faith, they have always attracted people to their churches,” Boyette said.
“Over the long haul, as the GMC shares its mission and vision, we will grow and multiply in the West. We’re honored and humbled by the faithful and persevering pastors and lay people who have stepped forward to lead a renewal of Methodism in the West.”
To help advance their efforts out West, the GMC is partnering with The River Network, a church planting resource organization tied to Crossroads Church of Oakdale, Pennsylvania.
Crossroads Church founder and Pastor Steve Cordle, who serves as executive director of The River Network, told CP his organization has close ties to the GMC that go back to the denomination’s beginning in 2022.
“When the GMC launched, the leadership invited the River Network to become a strategic partner in the area of church planting,” Cordle said. “I am a GMC pastor and believe in its mission.”
“I was excited about its plan to make church planting a priority, and as executive director of the River Network, I’m glad to mobilize or to do what we can to further church multiplication around the world.”
According to Cordle, over the past 18 months, while serving as the GMC’s strategic partner, the River Network has helped to train more than 700 church planting leaders based in three countries.
“Personally, I see great potential for church multiplication everywhere in the U.S.,” Cordle added. “We have seen some people who have left the UMC become launch team members for new GMC churches.”
Over the past several years, the UMC found itself divided over whether it should amend its Book of Discipline to remove language prohibiting clergy from blessing same-sex unions and from ordaining clergy in same-sex romantic relationships.
Although efforts to change the Book of Discipline at the quadrennial General Conference have always failed, many theological progressive leaders within the UMC have often refused to follow or enforce the rules.
At a special session of General Conference held in 2019, delegates voted to add Paragraph 2553 to the Book of Discipline, which created a process of disaffiliation for congregations seeking to leave the UMC over the LGBT debate.
From 2019 to the end of 2023, when the paragraph officially expired, 7,660 congregations successfully disaffiliated from the UMC, presenting more than a quarter of the number of member churches in the nation.