Liberal United Methodist Pastor Seeks To Avoid Split

Juicy Ecumenism | 6/24/2019 | Benjamin Saine
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Noted retired liberal Methodist pastor Christy Thomas recently appeared on the Crackers and Grape Juice Podcast to talk about issues facing the liberal wing of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and possible solutions. This podcast is especially interesting for the positions that Thomas and the hosts take on these issues. The purpose of examining this podcast is to assess what liberal Methodist thought looks like at the current moment.

Thomas and the podcast hosts focused on three main topics in the May 31 broadcast. Is it possible for the UMC to divide itself into two or more denominations? And how can liberals and traditionalists coexist within the current system?

Issue - Split - UMC - Thomas - Course

On the issue of a split in the UMC, Thomas seems to have reversed course somewhat. She previously talked of an inevitable split in the UMC, but seems less sure of it now. She contacted Dr. Bill Lawrence, former member of the Judicial Council and former Dean of Perkins School of Theology, to ask if a vote on dividing the UMC would itself be struck down as unconstitutional. The answer was a resounding, “I don’t know.” This constitutional problem is compounded by the problems of division and infighting already within the UMC which may doom any attempt at a formal separation from the outset.

The other major problem with a denominational split is property. The UMC, under its various boards and subdivisions, owns a substantial amount of property beyond local church facilities. Specifically mentioned facilities include: the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, Southern Methodist University, American University, and Methodist Hospital in Houston among others. Furthermore, since all of these organizations are incorporated in different states and sometimes different countries, then a split would need to apportion property to the resultant denominations according to a litany of different state and national laws. Even if it...
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