It’s not a church and has no members, but it’s a way to keep United Methodists in the fold as their congregations disaffiliate.

0

Social media posts can be heartbreaking to read:

  • “I feel let down by my church who voted to leave UMC.”
  • “This separation has caused a rift in decades-old scholarship.”
  • “I feel like… our beloved church has been pushed off a cliff into the unknown.”
  • “My church will be leaving UMC in August to join GMC. When or how will the UMC provide those who do not have a church who want to remain in the UMC with some support? »

For those who feel spiritually “homeless” in the breakup of The United Methodist Church, a “metaverse movement” called UMsConnected has been launched to provide those wishing to remain in the denomination a way to be connected beyond their disgruntled congregations.

UMsConnected was envisioned by Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, who oversees the Florida and Western North Carolina annual conferences. Aware that some Florida Conference churches were preparing to leave the denomination, Bishop Carter reached out to retired seminary teacher and Methodist spirituality expert Steve Harper about creating an online community to support those who wish to remain in the UMC even as their local congregations leave.

Kenneth Carter

“Bishop Carter asked me to consider creating a website that could be a gathering place for those who wish to remain in The United Methodist Church when their congregations disaffiliate,” Harper explained. “After thinking about it, I decided that such a ‘metaverse movement’ could be valuable for other audiences as well as those who feel spiritually homeless.”

“As a metaverse movement, UMsConnected expresses words like ‘location’ and ‘interaction’ in new and varied ways,” explains the About section of the website. “The movement will evolve, responding to needs using a learning-by-doing approach, but it was launched with these basic resources: a website, a group Facebook page and a podcast.”

Harper and other UMsConnected leaders say they envision participants in their online community as church members whose congregations have closed; those whose congregations voted to leave the UMC; those without a nearby United Methodist Church; and those seeking a supportive faith community via the Internet. They say the movement is not a church and has no members, preferring to describe itself as a community of “members”.

Steve Harper

The website says the movement’s mission can be described in three words: vision, intention and means. The “vision” is to foster “a theology of love that expresses itself in personal and social holiness. The “intention” is to provide spiritual formation in the tradition of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, using technology in innovative and meaningful ways. The “means” to achieve the vision and intent will be resources to educate and inspire participants in Wesleyan spiritual traditions through the UMsConnected website, Facebook page and podcast.

Two online gatherings should start in September:

  • “Kindred” – a weekly Zoom group for young adults starting Monday, September 12 at 7 p.m. EST, led by Christy Holden, director of the Gulf Coast Wesley Foundation on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, Florida.
  • “Conversations” – a monthly Zoom meeting that features a guest who will dialogue on a particular topic. The first meeting will be Thursday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m. EST.

Two more rallies are in the works, Harper said. “Epworth Group,” a spiritual formation session named after John Wesley’s childhood home, will be modeled after the traditional Methodist class meeting. “Living the Wesleyan Way,” a monthly group, will combine the disciplines of common reading and “holy conference” discussions and will be led by fellow retired seminary teacher and Wesley heritage expert, Paul Chilcote.

Three other experts joined the UMsConnected team during the first week of August. Kim Ingram, an ordained deacon and annual conference staff member from Western North Carolina, will serve as co-director. Chilcote, currently director of the Center for Global Wesleyan Theology at Cambridge University’s Wesley House in England, will lead a team to develop spiritual formation resources. Derrick Scott III, head of an independent ministry called Studio Wesley, will contribute his multimedia expertise to upgrade the inaugural website and create a YouTube channel.

As part of its mission to be a stepping stone on the journey to a new UMC, UMsConnected publishes answers to questions from church members, such as what happens to someone joining The Methodist Church United if his church is disaffiliating but he wants to remain in the denomination. The website reassures members that their individual United Methodist Church membership is not invalidated and advises members to transfer to a congregation that plans to remain with the denomination.

In case there is no other United Methodist Church nearby, Harper suggested that organizing an Epworth group, similar to a “house church,” can work as a stopgap arrangement.

“UMsConnected can help you those interested are organizing a full Epworth group with guidelines and resources,” Harper said.

In the wake of the sometimes tense disputes currently unfolding over the breakup of the UMC, the founders of UMsConnected also say they hope its Wesleyan spiritual focus will dispel false narratives spread across the denomination by forces dissidents.

Bishop Carter raised concerns in an Aug. 2 Facebook post about how rumors and misinformation are undermining The United Methodist Church as congregations fall apart.

“There is misinformation what the present and future United Methodist Church believes,” Bishop Carter wrote. “Some of this misinformation is being shared in local churches. If we don’t tell our story, others will build a story about us, in this case a false witness on the UMC. It is a violation of the Ninth Commandment.

In UMsConnected’s inaugural podcast, Harper characterized the “metaverse movement” as a pathway for United Methodists to navigate change as a new denomination takes shape.

“God is guiding us to a future filled with hope,” Harper said.

For more details on UMsConnected, contact Steve Harper at [email protected]

Cynthia B. Astle is a veteran journalist who has covered The United Methodist Church worldwide at all levels for more than 30 years. She is the editor of United Methodist Insight, an online journal she founded in 2011.

Related Articles:

As Frustration and Misinformation Rise, The United Methodist Church’s Reputation Takes a Hit

Just when you think breaking up The United Methodist Church couldn’t get any harder…

United Methodist Church split sparks celebration, lament and soul-searching

Summer state and regional meetings provide insight into how the split is unfolding in The United Methodist Church

Share.

Comments are closed.