The United Methodist Church (UMC) emerged in the 18th century as a result of the Methodist movement that was based on John Wesley and Charles Wesley’s teachings. The Wesleyan movement began in England but gained traction in the United States in the 19th Century which resulted in the growth of various Methodist denominations across the country. 1n 1968, two Methodist denominations, The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged thereby forming the United Methodist Church.
In January 2020, a section of leaders within the UMC started a push for a reform of the stand of the UMC on sexual orientation. This resulted in the creation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination that is now known as the Global Methodist Church (GMC). The GMC’s main goal was to establish a Methodist denomination that strictly adheres to the traditional teachings on human sexuality. However, there are many other differences between the two. Let’s have a look at these in more detail below:
Differences Between UMC and GMC
The most notable difference between UMC and GMC is their stand on sexuality. GMC believes that homosexuality shouldn’t be allowed in the church while UMC believes that people of all sexual orientations should be welcomed to the church. But there are other differences between the two as well including the election of Bishops, education requirements for clergy, theological beliefs, church ownership, and apportionment rules. Let’s take a look at these in more detail below.
Bishop Leadership and Election Process:
Both UMC and GMC are led by Bishops who have somewhat similar roles. However, there are some important differences in a couple of things like election and term limits. For the UMC, Bishops are elected by the jurisdictional conference and they serve for life. The GMC on the other hand has imposed term limits on their Bishops and they have not yet decided on the process of electing them. Also, UMC Bishops’ remuneration is paid through general church appointments. On the flip side, GMC Bishops’ salaries and benefits are dispensed through the annual conference budget.
Educational Requirements for Pastors
The UMC has a seminary degree requirement for one to qualify for the pastoral ordination. On the other hand, the GMC does not mandate a seminary degree for ordination as a deacon or elder. However, upon ordination, the individual will be required to go through an extensive list of courses.
The GMC does not mandate a seminary degree for ordination as an elder or deacon. However, it does have an extensive list of required courses that can be fulfilled with a seminary degree. In contrast, the UMC requires a seminary degree for pastors seeking ordination.
The GMC doctrine emphasizes that sexuality is God’s gift and that it should only be exercised between man and woman. They believe that homosexuality is incompatible with the teachings of the Bible and that the gender of an individual is determined by Gpod at birth.. The UMC on the other hand believes in the sacred worth of all people and emphasizes God’s love for all irrespective of sexual orientation.
The UMC subscribes to a theological approach that can be described as a broad tent. This approach allows the clergy and the church to express several views whether conservative or progressive. On the flip side, the GMC insists on traditional biblical and Wesleyan doctrines and strictly follows the Transitional Book of Doctrine and Disciple. Both the congregation and clergy are expected to uphold congregational fidelity and thereby uphold Wesleyan theology.
Church Property Ownership
The local church property for UMC is held in a trust by the annual conference. The GMC on the other hand does not have a clause that defines a trust which means the individual local churches have full control and worship of their property.
The pastoral ordination process in the UMC follows a multi-step process that includes candidacy, commissioning, and ordination as an elder. The GMC has a more simplified process where individuals undergo the candidacy stage followed by ordination as a deacon which may lead to ordination as an elder. Lead pastors in the GMC are expected to work toward ordination as elders, and there are no local pastors in this denomination.
Even though both denominations have an apportionment system, the apportionment system of GMC varies from that of the UMC. For GMC, apportionment is capped at 1.5% for church ministry and 5% for the annual conference ministry. These percentages are calculated based on the local church’s operating income from the previous year. On the other hand, the UMC does not have a cap. Additionally, the local church’s contribution is computed from a three-year average of the church’s operating expenses.
Apart from the amounts, the accountability for the apportionment also differs. The GMC typically gets fewer apportionments but is expected to be very accountable to the funds. GMC churches are expected to pay apportionments monthly and any persistent non-payment issues could result in removal from the denomination. The UMC also requires regular apportionment payments but it does not have a clearly defined process of accountability.
Similarities Between UMC and GMC
Connectional Conference Structure
The GMC and UMC have a similar connectional conference structure. The structure encompasses several levels that include Jurisdictional Conference (Regional Conference in the GMC), Annual Conference, District Conference, and Charge/Church Conference at the local church level.
Local Church Organization
Both GMC and UMC have a similar local church setup. Every local church has a Church Council, a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, a Board of Trustees, a Finance Committee, and Nominations.
The GMC and UMC agree on the traditional Wesleyan concept of water baptism. As such, both denominations baptize infants, children, youth, and adults, using methods such as sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Additionally, both agree on the importance of confirmation for children as they believe it serves as a way for the young ones to make a profession of their faith.
Appointment of Pastors
In both denominations, pastors are appointed with the bishops in conjunction with the cabinet of the respective local churches. However, there is a slight difference for GMC which gives the pastor-parish relations committee greater influence in determining the pastors to be appointed.
District Superintendents/Presiding Elders:
Both UMC and GMC have someone referred to as a Presiding Elder (for GMC) or District Superintendent (For UMC) who is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the churches and pastors in a given church district. Presiding Elder is a name that finds its roots in the methodist movement although the roles are identical to those of the District Superintendent.
As we have established, the GMC and UMC are very similar in a number of areas but the differences are also quite significant. The issue of sexuality is arguably the most important difference of the differences between the two. As of now, the GMC is still a relevant new denomination so there are still several issues of doctrine that may still evolve over time.