Why I Joined the Global Methodist ChurchSeptember 22nd, 2023
I have now officially disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church and have become a full Elder in the Global Methodist Church. This has not been an easy path to follow since I was born and raised in the United Methodist Church, as were many of you reading this blog. It was the church of my parents and grandparents and great grandparents. It was the denomination where I first heard the gospel. It was the place where I first began to sense the stirrings to become a full-time minister of the gospel. I sang in the choirs and attended the Vacation Bible Schools. I was part of a vibrant youth group. I was baptized there. When my calling into full-time ministry was confirmed, I became ordained in the United Methodist Church, where I have served for almost forty years.
I have many precious memories of serving and preaching in the United Methodist Church. As a fresh seminary graduate, I was graciously given a four-point charge in the mountains of North Georgia. I was privileged to serve several churches during the early days of my ministry. It was the United Methodist Church where I first learned to preach. It was there that I baptized someone for the first time. It was there that I broke the bread and lifted the chalice for the very first time as I consecrated the Lord’s Supper. It was there that I performed my first of many weddings. It was there that I sat with grieving friends who had lost their loved ones. I still recall that I performed 52 funerals in my first two years of ministry! Most of all, I remember the men and women, boys and girls who came to a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. My wife Julie and I were married in a United Methodist Church in Carroll County, Maryland, which was the location where Robert Strawbridge started the first “class meeting” in America. Both sides of our family have deep roots in the United Methodist Church. I have wonderful memories of those early years when I was being formed as a Christian, as a pastor, and as a leader.
I can only say that I worked tirelessly in those churches and in my later extension appointments to serve the best I could with the sacred charges that were entrusted to me. Even my 14 years as President of Asbury Seminary were an extension appointment of the United Methodist Church. I truly felt that I was in a covenant relationship with the church, and I was seeking to be faithful to my side of the covenant. I hope you are seeing something of how deeply I loved the United Methodist Church and that I feel eternally indebted to that wonderful denomination for all it has given to me.
So, with all these memories and deep ties, why would I disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church? My central reason is the deeper realization that my first love is not to any denomination but to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have witnessed major portions of the UMC move away from historic orthodoxy. Sometimes, I felt like a lonely voice in an increasingly hostile environment. In short, I felt that the covenant relationship had been broken. This has become particularly acute since 2013. There are, of course, still thousands of United Methodist people and pastors all over the world who love the Lord and who faithfully serve him. However, on the whole, the United Methodist Church is no longer a secure and reliable source of Christian orthodoxy. It seems clear that this trend will likely get worse in the years ahead. That is the root problem. For me, the issues around LGBTQ+ and, in recent years, gender debates, are not the root problem. I have written and stood strongly for a Christian view of marriage and a historic Christian view of the body. My views on those issues are well known. But, for me, those are but the presenting issues of the deeper malady, which is a growing disaffiliation from Scripture and from the historic witness of the church through the ages. A secondary but also serious issue for me has been the loss of the distinctive Wesleyan emphasis on sanctification, holiness, and the Spirit-filled life. All of this has left me feeling like a stranger in the very denomination that once gave me birth. I actually do not feel that I am leaving the UMC. I feel that it left me years ago, and I recently had to admit that I no longer had a secure home, a proper covenant, a shared Christology, and a common view of the authority of Scripture that could allow me to continue as an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. It was, therefore, with great sadness that I informed my bishop that I was transferring my membership out of the Kentucky Conference and to the Global Methodist Church.
But one should never just join a new denomination because of dissatisfaction with the old. I have sensed a positive vision in the newly formed Global Methodist church to become a truly global movement of Methodists who are fully committed to orthodoxy and to the transformation of our world through the power of the gospel. In short, the Global Methodist Church is like the church I once knew and loved in my younger years of ministry. Joining it is like getting a fresh start with a new wind in my sails.
I am now a full Elder in the Global Methodist Church. My journey is my own. But, for me, I do sense a renewed excitement about the days ahead. I was surprised when I finally hit “send” on the letter to my bishop stating that I had decided to transfer to the Global Methodist Church. The moment I did that, I sensed a huge weight fall off my shoulders. I had not fully realized how weary I had become from years and years of fighting and struggling with the very church I loved so dearly. Once I finally stepped away, I felt like I was 25 years old again. I have been given a new opportunity for ministry. New vistas are open to me. New possibilities are present to be explored. I now have new callings to answer. I am now under a bishop with a proven track record for defending orthodoxy and for extending the gospel through word and deed. I am not running “from” anything. I am running “to” a new fellowship of like-minded believers. The Global Methodist Church is now my tribe. My covenant has been renewed. My joy is full. Thanks be to God.
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