AVON, Indiana — A new Methodist denomination was officially launched this month, and many of its leaders met Friday to make key decisions for the formation of the denomination.
The new denomination, the World Methodist Church, split from the United Methodist Church in a schism primarily over LGBTQ rights. The World Methodist Church will be a home for Methodist churches that have more “traditionalist” positions on sexuality and gender.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association — the primary organization behind the formation of the World Methodist Church — gathered its supporters and voting delegates here in suburban Indianapolis on Friday and Saturday to help the new denomination get off the ground.
Before the split, the UMC, with more than 6.2 million members in the United States, according to 2020 data, was the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the country. As of 2018, the denomination had over 12 million members worldwide.
Here are the main takeaways.
Related:Methodists focus on Easter amid denominational schism and tough decisions ahead
Previously:A new Methodist denomination has announced its official launch. How did we come here?
What is the significance of the event?
The World Methodist Church was launched earlier than originally planned, throwing it into a state of flux as churches are already joining. Joining churches are those that have left the UMC.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association, an advocacy group, meets in part to recommend policies that World Methodist Church leaders can adopt to establish a doctrinal foundation.
The Wesleyan Covenant Association released its recommendations through a series of votes cast by the group’s legislature.
What have they decided?
The Wesleyan Covenant Association legislature voted for a new president and on four nonbinding resolutions on Friday.
Reverend Jay Therrell, a pastor from Florida, will lead the Wesleyan Covenant Association, replacing Reverend Keith Boyette of Virginia. Boyette will hold a key leadership position within the worldwide Methodist Church.
“I trust the amazing group…to get us through Jordan and where we need to be,” Therrell told the audience on Friday when he was elected. “I’m really sure that God is for us. We’re going to get there. It will be soon.”
Two of the four resolutions contained recommendations for the Methodist world church. One resolution passed along a catechism, or denominational core beliefs, and the other includes policies embodying traditionalist beliefs about sexuality and gender.
How did the deliberations go?
Each of the measures passed Friday was approved by more than 95% by the 235 delegates who make up the Wesleyan Covenant Association legislature. The consensus contrasts with the division between this group and others within the UMC in previous years on topics such as sexuality and gender identity.
Related:World Methodist Church announces launch in May, separate from United Methodist Church for LGBTQ rights
The vote on the “Sexual Sanctity” resolution followed a presentation by a working group that studied the subject and developed the recommendations included in the approved resolution. Delegates approved an amendment adding recommendations for the development of resources for church leaders and laity promoting the idea that “a committed marriage between a man and a woman is the optimal environment for nurturing and raising children.” .
After:United Methodist leaders plan to postpone conference where split vote is expected
Previously:Methodists focus on Easter amid denominational schism and tough decisions ahead
What are the wider implications?
The temporary governing body of the World Methodist Church will now have to decide whether or not to adopt the recommendations it has received from the Wesleyan Covenant Association. If so, it will be a significant development for the denomination.
But many other things remain undetermined. UMC regional conferences will determine this summer whether applications from individual churches wishing to disaffiliate should be approved. Other important decisions await approval by delegates to the UMC General Conference in 2024.
Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @liamsadams.