New progressive Methodist denomination starts

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A group of progressive United Methodists and other Christians launched a new denomination named the Liberation Methodist Connexion, or LMX.

The new church aims to center on the voices of people of color as well as queer and transgender individuals — those the LMX organizers see as marginalized in The United Methodist Church.

“We are a grassroots denomination of former, current, and non-Methodist faith leaders working on the unfolding of the kin-dom of God,” the Connexion says on its website. “We intentionally invite the full participation of all who are living out their God-given identities and expressions.”

Organizers announced the new denomination’s formation with an online worship service, presentation and after-party on Nov. 29, the first Sunday of Advent and the start of the Christian year.

The online gathering had more than 400 registrants. But because of technical difficulties, a number of those registrants were unable to log on, including United Methodist News.

The new Connexion is getting off the ground after decades of intensifying debate within The United Methodist Church about how inclusive to be of LGBTQ Christians.

At the General Conference planned for May 2020, United Methodists expected to take up a proposal to resolve the dispute over same-sex marriage and gay ordination through a formal denominational separation. However, coronavirus-related shutdowns postponed the lawmaking assembly, which is now scheduled for Aug. 29-Sept. 7, 2021.

The new denomination’s organizers, a number of whom are LGBTQ, said they feel called to act now.

“The timeline of the Holy Spirit is driving our decision to launch the LMX at this moment, and we are following her call,” the Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller told UM News by email.

Spencer-Miller, a New Testament professor at United Methodist Drew Theological School, is one of more than 40 collaborators who are helping to establish the new church.

She and other collaborators declined to say how many congregations or people are part of the new denomination at launch. Organizers said by email they do not want to equate worth with volume.

Among the collaborators are both United Methodist pastors and lay people, including at least three church leaders elected to be General Conference delegates or reserve delegates.

The new Connexion is not asking people to choose between the LMX and their affiliations with other faith communities, Spencer-Miller said by email and at the event.

Ian Carlos Urriola, another collaborator and veteran General Conference delegate, said at the event that the new denomination plans to work with The United Methodist Church’s official racial and ethnic caucuses, “ensuring that we remain in relationship with our forebears in the struggle.”

At this point, the Liberation Methodist Connexion has obtained tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in the United States. The new church also is in process of applying for a group exemption with the IRS to simplify the administrative process for its congregations and ministries.

The Wesleyan Covenant Association, a group on the traditionalist end of the theological spectrum, also plans to start a new denomination separate from The United Methodist Church. The WCA’s leadership includes General Conference delegates, and the association already has drafted its own Book of Doctrines and Discipline.

The new Connexion has no doctrinal litmus tests, said the Rev. Janet G. McKeithen, a member of the new denomination’s working group.

The LMX focuses more on actions than beliefs, Spencer-Miller later added.  

“We seek not answers that lead us to correct doctrines as to why we suffer. We seek correct actions, correct praxis where God sustains us during the unanswerable questions,” Spencer-Miller said during the online event.

Such actions — the Connexion’s website notes — include reparations, caring for the earth and freeing Methodist tradition of colonialism, white supremacy, economic injustice, sexism, ableism, ageism and heteronormativity.

The new church draws its name from liberation theology, developed by Latin American Catholic theologians in the 1960s and soon augmented by Methodist theologians such as the Rev. James Cone. The theology emphasizes God’s call to liberate the poor and oppressed.

More about LMX plans

The Liberation Methodist Connexion has posted a recording of its online event.

The new denomination plans for its next worship service to be an online New Year’s Eve vigil.

Learn more at its website.

The name Connexion comes from the old British spelling of connection used by Methodism’s founder John Wesley. The letter “X” is also a symbol for Christ, the first letter of which looks like an X in Greek. “In that way it reminds of our heritage, some of the good soil,” the Rev. Sue Laurie, one of the group’s organizers, said by email.

The new denomination emerges out of the work of UM Forward, which formed ahead of the 2019 special General Conference to advocate for the removal of all United Methodist restrictions against homosexuality. Instead, a majority of General Conference delegates adopted the Traditional Plan, legislation that tightened bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and instituted mandatory penalties for same-gender weddings.

Since that special session, UM Forward has held gatherings in Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas to discuss the church’s future. The group also submitted its own separation plan to the coming General Conference that would dissolve The United Methodist Church and form four new denominations instead.

While the idea of dissolution has gained little traction, a number of United Methodists have endorsed another proposal titled “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation,” negotiated by a professional mediator with a theologically diverse group of United Methodists.

The protocol would allow traditionalist churches — those that oppose same-sex weddings and the ordination of noncelibate gay clergy — to leave with their properties. The new traditionalist group would also get $25 million in United Methodist funds.

The protocol also sets aside $2 million for any other new Methodist denominations that form.

But neither money nor the Protocol was an emphasis at the LMX launch event. Instead organizers focused on plans to provide educational resources, offer pastoral care and address the sins they see plaguing the church.

Laurie, a longtime activist for LGBTQ equality in The United Methodist Church, preached during the event’s worship service about her weariness after decades without change to the church’s stance.

“Now I am grateful for a new day, an invitation to the Liberation Methodist Connexion to be among a fresh constellation of believers who have the urgency for their vision,” she said.

“I am grateful to be confronted by people who have come to the Gospel from different places.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for UM News. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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Kelly Price. Photo by Portrait Innovations, courtesy of the author.

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