Wondering About a Better Future for Your Local Church?

Maybe you are so used to playing “follow the leader” that you think your local church has no other choice but to continue with the NIC…no matter what. We’re told to pay apportionments, “trust the process”, and, don’t rock the boat. You’ve got to go along to get along, right?

And yet, you wonder…

If trusting the process and continuing to fund the costs of the annual conference are such a good idea, then why are we continuing to decline in numbers, vitality, and impact? Our chronic decline isn’t the way the Jesus Mission is described in the Bible (the Acts of the Apostles, for example) and it certainly isn’t the way it has been in our Methodist history. Besides, as United Methodism experiences sustained, substantial growth in other parts of the world, why can’t we seem to light the fire here in Northern Illinois?

Our Bishop and other conference leaders advocate the Progressive Path as the best choice for the future. Without question the leaders of the Northern Illinois Conference will choose to take the Progressive Path once legislation is adopted at the next General Conference to separate the United Methodist Church into two or more denominations.

But maybe you’d like to be part of something that is much more dynamic, has stronger vital signs, and makes a bigger impact. You’d like to be part of a church, as one person said, “that lives longer than I will.” If you wonder about a viable alternative to “the way things are”, then you are in the right place. A different future is possible for you and your local church.

Wake Up Before the Breakup

Here are a half-dozen dynamics that may have been holding your congregation back for a long time. You and your local church likely have become so accustomed to these dynamics that you may have concluded there are no other options. But the opportunity for a different future is on the near horizon. Consider how these current dynamics of our denomination and annual conference impact your local church… and then consider the choice your church can make for a better future.

  1. The Kidnapping of Jesus
    The New Testament cautions local churches about the possibility that they might fall under the influence of leaders who are promoting an “alternative gospel” (see, for example, Galatians 5:16-26; Jude 3-4, 17-23; Romans 6:15-18; Titus 3:3-11). The leadership of the United Methodist Church affirms a wide range of beliefs under the umbrella of “theological pluralism.” John Wesley, who, along with several others, founded the Methodist Movement, understood and taught that while there is room for variation on a variety of beliefs and practices among Christ-followers, the core tenets of the Christian faith are not up for debate or revision (see his sermon, The Catholic Spirit).Influential leaders in the United Methodist Church, however, have gone far beyond John Wesley in giving themselves and others wide latitude to promote a gospel far removed from Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures. This alternative gospel, the Scriptures warn, leads to abandoning the Christian faith, fragmenting the church, and undermining our witness in the world. Besides, who wants to pledge their “prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness” to a group that cannot agree on what it believes and promotes?

    If your congregation chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, you will be part of a movement that celebrates, defends, and promotes the Christian faith in alignment with the global Christian community through the past 2,000 years.

  2. The Gagging of the Laity
    Maybe you aren’t aware of this, but the clergy make up just 0.5% of United Methodists (just one-half of one percent). But the clergy have 50% of the vote whenever the Annual Conference or General Conference gets together. If the actions, positions, and direction of the Northern Illinois Conference don’t seem to align with the general convictions, opinions, and preferences of your local congregation, guess what? It’s because the voice of the laity is suppressed by design. Nothing against clergy, but as a group clergy have way more power than their numbers warrant.The proposed new traditionalist Methodist church has a much larger voice for laity at all levels. If your congregation chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, your witness, your testimony, your influence…your voice will be set loose for God’s purposes here and now.
  3. The Captivity of Congregations
    You are probably already aware of this, but the United Methodist denomination has control of all the property and assets of every local United Methodist congregation. The Annual Conference “owns” your local church, your parsonage, your finances…all property and assets. And the pastors who will lead your congregation are appointed unilaterally by the Bishop. There is supposed to be “consultation” between the congregation and the District Superintendent and Bishop, but for the most part when a pastor is “presented” to the Staff-Parish Relations Committee of the local church, the deal is already done. And, in general, no returns or exchanges are permitted.In the proposed new traditionalist Methodist church, local churches own their property and are involved in a search and hiring process for their pastor(s). The Bishop assists the local church in the search and hiring process. If your church chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, you will leave with your property, assets and liabilities intact and available to be deployed for your mission and ministry.
  4. The Security of the Clergy
    The present system of clergy deployment in the United Methodist Church provides what is commonly called a “guaranteed appointment” to every ordained elder in good standing until the time of their mandatory retirement (age 72). That is a very secure situation for the ordained elders, but it isn’t very efficient, affordable, or mission-focused for local congregations.In the proposed new traditionalist Methodist church “guaranteed appointments” are a thing of the past; mutually developed, accountable, and mission-focused partnerships are expected between local churches and their pastors. If your church chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, you will have the opportunity and responsibility for developing a responsive, accountable, strong and effective partnership with the pastor(s) of your congregation’s choosing. The pastor will not be “sent from headquarters” but will be called by your congregation as part of the ministry team in your community.
  5. The Self-Interest of Institutionalists
    When it comes to the anticipated separation of the United Methodist Church, most of our denominational and Annual Conference leaders will recommend just going along with the Annual Conference as the easiest and safest path for your local church to follow. It will be the simplest: just do what you’ve always done. But then you will get what you’ve always gotten. The leaders of the United Methodist Church and the Northern Illinois Conference have a particular interest in holding on to as many apportionment-paying congregations as possible. Propping up the declining institution of United Methodism needs a lot of paying participants.

    In the proposed new traditionalist Methodist church, the local congregation will not exist to serve the needs of a bureaucracy. In fact, the entire structure as currently proposed will exist to serve and strengthen the vitality and impact of the local congregations. If your congregation chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, you will likely experience a refreshing, even liberating, change and the opportunity for a vital future…and probably a much lower apportionment, too.

  6. Non-Credible Bishops
    Sometimes when we use the word “incredible” we are exclaiming with excitement that something, some event, or some person is awesome, fantastic, so much better than expected.

    Non-credible means just the opposite: not up to expectations, untrustworthy, not to be counted upon.

    Which brings us to the leadership of Bishops in United Methodism overall: don’t count on them to help your local church become more vital, effective, and impactful. There are three simple reasons for this:

    a) the Bishops are elected by a variety of constituencies. Given this process of election, the Bishops cannot provide leadership because they “owe it” to these various constituencies to support their institutional and political agendas. Bishops function primarily as bureaucratic managers; they are in no position to lead.

    b) each Bishop is elected for life. A substantial majority of the Bishops in the United States advocate the Progressive Agenda, oppose the Traditional Plan approved by the 2019 Special General Conference, and have refused to implement the provisions of the Traditional Plan in the Book of Discipline. Progressives consider this noncompliance by our Bishops to be a “prophetic” stance; in reality it is a refusal to uphold the standards of the United Methodist Church which they lead. Since they are elected for life, however, they are at liberty to pursue the Progressive Agenda while receiving salary and benefits from the denomination whose standards they refuse to teach, promote, defend and enforce.

    c) there is no accountability for Bishops. According to our denominational standards, the Bishops are to hold one another accountable for fulfilling their spiritual and administrative responsibilities. Since most of the Bishops in the United States support the Progressive Agenda and since all of them are elected for life, for the foreseeable future the Bishops seem to have little motivation to hold one another accountable.

The point here is that our Bishops, individually and as a council, cannot lead, will not lead, and refuse to abide by the current discipline of the United Methodist Church related to theology and doctrine as well as our current definition of marriage or our standards for ordination. In the post-separation United Methodist Church there is not expected to be any change in the role of the Bishops: elected by agenda-driven constituencies, elected for life, and accountable only to one another.
In the proposed new traditionalist Methodist church, bishops will be elected for a term (not for life) and will be accountable to the general church rather than to one another. If your local church chooses to leave the Northern Illinois Conference to become part of the new traditionalist Methodist church, you will likely experience episcopal leadership that is available, accountable, and effective.

Wondering why your church seems to have such a hard time moving forward? Honestly there are oftentimes internal issues in every congregation that need to be addressed; but the dynamics within the United Methodist denomination often keep a congregation from ever reaching its potential. So maybe your local church should consider a different denominational family if you would like to experience a different kind of congregational future.

If you would like further information on the upcoming separation of the United Methodist Church and the possibilities for your local congregation, explore other resources on this website.

If you would like a personal conversation/consultation about options for the future, use our contact page to get in touch. We will be glad to help!

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REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

REV. DR. SCOTT FIELD

NIC Clergy/Retired
Resource Networking Coordinator
Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association

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