The IRD’s Mark Tooley Reveals All: The Full African Takeover Of The UMC

The IRD’s Mark Tooley Reveals All: The Full African Takeover Of The UMC March 10, 2019

Yes, Mark Tooley reveals all. However, I feel sure the Wesleyan Covenant Association people, who now have gotten their hopes fulfilled by continued exclusion of the LGBTQIA community, will be delighted to make sure the African church stays fully funded. It would be unthinkable for them, who hold to the stance that they take the highest of high moral roads, to sever their relationship with the African Methodists now or in the foreseeable future. 

Mark Tooley Reveals All

In an editorial of the Friday, March 8, 2019 version of The Wall Street Journal, former CIA agent turned “Let’s destroy the mainline Protestant Denominations in the US” head of the Institute for Religion and Democracy (and best friend of the UMC Good News and Wesleyan Covenant Association), Mark Tooley reveals all.

After Tooley first rejoiced at the Traditional Plan “win” over the sad liberal wing of The United Methodist Church, the summarized the future expectations for Methodism this way:

More telling: Manila will host the 2024 general conference, the first ever outside the U.S. Four years later the church will meet in Harare, Zimbabwe—with African delegates in the driver’s seat. When the general conference returns to the U.S. in 2032, Americans will be a decided minority in what was once called “America’s church.”

Takeover complete by 2028

And now we have it: the takedown of the US part of the UMC will be complete by 2028. Yep, Mark Tooley reveals all.

I rejoice in the spread of Methodist Christianity in many African nations. Their continued study of John Wesley’s writings and theology, along with the implementation of his methods, will enrich those nations for generations as they adapt those words, theology, and methods in ways that work well for them.

The delegates from Africa at GC2019 made it clear that they have loads of social problems they must address. Methodism will be as transformative for that continent as it was for Great Britain in the 18th century and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is right that the African Methodists own their future without the kind of US-centric type of structure, particularly for the General Conferences. that they must work under now. As they take the majority, they can create policies that enhance their ministries, make necessary changes to the Discipline, and arrange for the funding to support this massive growth.

The WCA must fund the African church or be exposed as the worst of hypocrites

That many people flocking to the African churches means extensive funding be made available for clergy training and for the appointment of multiple managers, i.e., District Superintendents, to stay on top of things. The growing number of necessary Bishops, as well, will need offices and assistants, good computers and ways for the clergy and their administrative staffs to submit the many reports required of every local charge. Otherwise, they may be unable to generate to accurate and timely records.

Monies rightly need to be channeled to the African church for these and other needs. It may be years or even decades before they can be self-supporting by apportionments within the African church because too many economies in parts of Africa still suffer greatly.

However, I feel sure the Wesleyan Covenant Association people, who now have gotten their hopes fulfilled by continued exclusion of the LGBTQIA community, will be delighted to make sure the African church stays fully funded.

It would be unthinkable for them, who hold to the stance that they take the highest of high moral roads, to sever their relationship with the African Methodists now or in the foreseeable future. Indeed, biblically-described righteousness demands that they gracefully submit to the African church as it takes its appropriate control of the denomination.

Should, however, the WCA follow through on their threat to withdraw from the denomination after this victory, they would also face exposure for hypocrisy so profound that it will haunt them forever. I can’t even imagine, now that Mark Tooley reveals all and takes his victory lap, they would contemplate such a thing.

The majority of the US Methodist churches must work to find new ways to continue to minister to local communities here. Let’s let the truth set us free.

Our problematic religious history

The United Methodist Church no longer exists. The anguish of GC2019 made that clear: the UMC is dead. Remember, speaking truth sets us free and that is now a basic truth.

I know many centrists/progressives have vowed to stay and fight. I admire the persistence–but the battle is futile now.

Time to look forward to the future. Time to give the Wesleyan Covenant Association a “high-five” for having fought so well and won–and to congratulate them for being willing to give up all future direction of their churches to the powerful African church. This is their path–let them walk joyfully in it.

Those Methodists who believe that the hope of the Gospel in the US lies in the genius of Christianity with its ability, so well demonstrated for us in the Book of Acts, to flex with the culture while holding onto the core of the message of grace that goes before us, surrounds us and leads us into the future, may now have the privilege of creating something new.

As we look to the future, it would be helpful to consider the past. It has long been the pattern of religious organizations that spring from Abraham, i.e., Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons, to segregate people into “in groups” and “out groups.”

Each religious group developed a set of rules as to who may enter into the fullest of the privileged spots and who must have restricted access. For most of history, women, essentially perpetually unclean, have not qualified at all.

Even today that is the case in Islam, Mormonism, most parts of Judaism, and large swaths of Christianity, especially the Catholic and Orthodox arms and today, in the Evangelical/fundamentalist segments. But again, the Book of Acts, especially chapter 15 and what follows after that decision, shows us how to erase old lines and draw new ones.

The Tooley-led segment of Methodism, focused on sexual purity, unfortunately comes saddled with female, divorced, and/or polygamous clergy. They have carefully drawn their biblical line: no GLBTQIA clergy, no same-sex marriage. We can only hope they will slowly work to eliminate the other unclean categories for the sake of internal consistency.

But, the centrist/progressive portion of the US church can now find its lines. And they are necessary–that’s how life works: it needs some boundaries for organizational integrity.

Here’s my suggestion: We call people to the highest standards of morality. We recognize that morality encompasses far more than just our sexuality. We also call people to honor the full humanity of all, while staying grounded in the centrality of our faith: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

That’s a good and powerful place to place our stake in the ground.

Let’s channel our inner “John Wesley’s” as we rethink the structure

I’m not so naive as to think it a simple process to rebuild a denomination. In a previous post, for example, I noted some of the many problems with the itinerant system, which worked well in Wesley’s time but not so well now.

We have to rethink structure in a world where people just don’t do “organized religion” any longer but have strong spiritual leanings, longing for connection with the Holy One. A good place to start is Gil Rendle’s latest work, Quietly Courageous: Leading the Church in a Changing World.  Here’s how he describes his work:

So this will be a book about assumptions. Organized religion currently rests on assumptions developed in an earlier time in which those assumptions served well. However, to move ahead there are a number of assumptions that will need to be challenged and changed or else the practice of leadership will be constrained and the changed cultural context will overwhelm any effort at a public mission. (Kindle location 133)

Nothing about the task of preparing to separate and re-create will be easy. A different set of conflicts will challenge the process from the beginning.

Again, as I said in an earlier post, we will need to channel our inner “John Wesley’s,” he of the willingness to break rules to spread the gospel in a way that communicated well to his cultural contest; he of the organizational genius; he of the understanding of both the power of and the safeguards of a healthy, vibrant connection.

It’s doable, but it’s tough. We all know that inertia, the resistance to change, will take a mighty toll on this process. Congregations may be torn apart, just as the UMC as a whole has now been torn apart.

Even thinking about that scenario makes me physically ill. The temptation to stay threatens to imprison us, remove from us the freedom to minister properly in our contexts.

But we must speak truth. At this point in most of the world, the UMC is known as the church that hates gays. That is a terrible way to be recognized.

And for all the protestations that “We love everyone,” a church cannot stay when the “everyone” also means, “But certain rights afforded to others are not afforded to you within the organization I ask you to serve.” That no longer flies.

Re-creation and the Imago Dei

I am aware, as I write this, that this kind of re-creation will be painful and complicated, even as it is freeing. I do believe, however, that in this new work we move more fully into those who carry the Imago Dei.

Consider the earliest part of the book of Genesis: God brings order out of chaos. There was not a “nothing” there, instead: chaos and darkness. God brings light, a sense of order, abundance of life, joyful and intimate relationships.

That’s always been the work of humankind: to push back the chaos, to bring light to the darkness, to nurture and cultivate life and to do so in joyful and intimate relationships. As John Wesley’s methods again find new life, as minds as brilliant as his in organization and structure set to work in today’s world, we can embrace again our connection.

The dark chaos over the sexuality fights has hindered the lightness of creativity, no matter what position one took. Now we can all be free.

Mark Tooley–thank you for being so open about your goals and your achievements. May you find joy in your victory. And may the rest of us move forward with the Gospel, imbued with grace, overflowing with love.

Image credit: (c) Christy Thomas

Photo credits: (c) Cherezoff at ID 57136709
By Michelangelo – Web Gallery of Art[1], Public Domain, Link

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