Retired bishop leaves UMC for new conservative church over ‘significant disagreement’ on theology

Bishop Mike Lowry preaching at the opening convocation for United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio in September 2020.
Bishop Mike Lowry preaching at the opening convocation for United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio in September 2020. | Screengrab: YouTube/UnitedSeminaryOH

A recently retired bishop of The United Methodist Church has announced that he is leaving the mainline Protestant denomination for a conservative alternative launched on Sunday.

The Rev. Michael J. Lowry, who recently retired as bishop of the UMC Fort Worth Episcopal Area, announced the cutting of his ties to the UMC to join the Global Methodist Church.

Lowry was previously involved in the GMC’s Transitional Leadership Council, which had been a reported concern among other UMC leaders due to him also being credentialed with the UMC.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

In a letter to UMC Council of Bishops President Cynthia Fierro Harvey and Bishop Bob Farr of the South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops dated April 28 that was posted online on Sunday, Lowry said his transition comes with “a heavy heart and deep grief.”

“I am thankful for the great nurturing and guidance I have received from the United Methodist Church over the course of my life. I have been richly blessed by friendships and support from a numerous cloud of witnesses across the face of the church universal, including members of the Council of Bishops,” wrote Lowry.

“Nonetheless, Jesus is Lord. It is first and foremost in allegiance to my Lord and Savior that I take this action.”

Lowry said the UMC had “strayed in significant ways from faithfully upholding” the Book of Discipline, which is the central rulebook of the denomination.

The retired bishop expressed the belief that the debate over LGBT issues only “masks the deeper and truly significant disagreement over what constitutes fidelity to the historic confession of the Christian faith expressed in the normative nature of Holy Scripture as the primary rule of faith, the ecumenical creeds, the Articles of Religion, and Wesley’s Standard Sermons.”

“Put succinctly, the massive iceberg beneath the roiling waters of our looming separation is the ongoing argument over just what constitutes the theological and moral foundations of contemporary Methodism,” he continued.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. of the UMC Central Texas Conference, where Lowry had served as a resident bishop, sent a letter on April 29 to clergy and laity based in the regional body, expressing his sadness over the issue.

“It saddens me to hear this news because Mike is a friend and has been a solid pastor and leader over the years in The United Methodist Church. However, I respect his decision to assist with the launch of the Global Methodist Church and pray for God’s best for him,” stated Saenz.

“I want to thank Mike for his years of service, for his pastoral spirit, and for his personable approach throughout his ministry. I ask that you join me in prayer for Mike and his wife, Jolynn, as they begin a new chapter in life and service to Christ.”

For several years, the UMC has been embroiled in a debate on whether to change its official stance labeling homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This stance includes prohibiting the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals and barring clergy from performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Although the stance has survived numerous attempts to change it, theological liberals have continued to resist the Book of Discipline rules and have, at times, refused to enforce them.

On Sunday, a group of theological conservatives officially launched the Global Methodist Church, which is meant to be an alternative for those planning to leave the UMC due to the liberal resistance.

“It is anticipated that some theologically conservative local churches will find annual conferences willing to negotiate fair and just exit provisions, while others will unfortunately face obstacles placed in their paths,” stated the GMC back in March when announcing their plans.

“The Transitional Leadership Council decided it was time to launch the Global Methodist Church, so those who can leave early will have a place to land, to begin building and growing, and making room for others to join later.”

At the official spring meeting for the UMC Council of Bishops held virtually last week, Harvey gave her final address as president of the body, taking the time to denounce the looming schism.

“We are part of one another, and the energy we have spent trying to figure out how to make sense of this separation is egregious,” she said, adding: "The fact that we have to give instructions for how to separate from the body is so counterintuitive from the instruction for how to be the Body of Christ.”

“We have said that we cannot be a traditional church or a progressive church or a centrist church, we cannot be a gay church or a straight church … Our churches must be more than echo chambers made in our own image, arguing with each other while neglecting our central purpose.”  

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.