Do the general agencies of The United Methodist Church really represent the members of the Church?
The United Methodist Church has an extraordinarily large and costly bureaucracy made up of numerous general agencies. Eleven of these are funded by grants levied on local congregations. But with all of this investment and structure, how well does this leadership truly represent most United Methodists on the bench?
Aside from any specific position, there are fundamental structural questions about how the general agency bureaucracy is truly set up to represent and be agencies of, by, and for the members of the church they serve. is meant to serve.
I protested for a long time geographically disproportionate representation in the UMC bureaucracy. Specifically, the Western Jurisdiction, by far the most liberal region, has only about two percent of all United Methodists, but has long been proportionately greatly overrepresented on general agency boards. Meanwhile, the African members of our global denomination, who have now become the majority of the UMC, have been severely underrepresented.
Having attended many denominational agency meetings over the years, I have seen firsthand how some of these leaders and stewards of resources across the denomination sometimes display thinly disguised contempt for conservative church members who pay their bills.
Of course, it’s not monolithic. But nearly a decade ago, seeing repeated overlaps between the leadership of pay-as-you-go general agencies and the unofficial Liberal activist caucuses prompted me ask if there was some sort of revolving door between the two. Since then, we have acquired additional reasons to ask such questions. During this time, we have not seen any similar level of overlap between general agency staff and evangelistic revival group staff.
The very divisive and liberal outlook of some influential staff members of some agencies is particularly noteworthy. For the record, I don’t recall ever having any negative direct interactions with any of the people named here. Of course, God lovingly created each of them in his own image and gave each of them unique gifts. Looking at these public record issues, I simply point out that when pay-as-you-go agency employees are empowered to promote such perspectives in our church, no one should be surprised when many more moderate and conservative church members feel alienated from the bureaucracy.
The main employee of this group, Connectional Ministries Officer Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, has used her authority in other denominational roles to advance very left-wing views on abortionhelp kill a proposal for the north-central jurisdiction of “call[bishopsandNCJannualconferencestohandleanyseparationinasgraciousandamicablewayaspossibleavoidingpropertylawsuitsandotherformsofbitterfighting[lesévêquesetlesconférencesannuellesduCNJàgérertouteséparationdelamanièrelaplusaimableetlaplusamicalepossibleenévitantlespoursuitesenmatièredepropriétéetd’autresformesdecombatsacharnés[bishopsandNCJannualconferencestohandleanyseparationinasgraciousandamicablewayaspossibleavoidingpropertylawsuitsandotherformsofbitterfighting”, and be listed as a primary signer of a letter demonizing the Wesleyan Covenant Association and pressuring the General Conference Commission “to postpone General Conference to 2024.” Me and others have written about the cynical politics behind this unnecessary General Conference delay.
Now, Bigham-Tsai’s prominent role in the CT bolsters his campaign to be elected bishop. Since its north-central jurisdiction previously elected a bishop who denied the real, physical resurrection of jesus christ, one of my fellow delegates asked Bigham-Tsai, when interviewing a delegation during her first campaign in 2016, what she thought about it. His answer was extraordinarily evasive.
Now, there is widespread rhetoric that the UMC is a theological “big tent”. During an interview with a delegation this month, the senior CT official was asked if it was important that United Methodists at least agree on who Jesus is. In response, Bigham-Tsai said confidently, “No, it’s not important that we agree on who the Christ is.” She then raised the question of whether she truly believes in the basic orthodox doctrine of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh in a particular human body at a particular time and in a particular place. In the words of Bigham-Tsai: “God became flesh, but not a particular flesh. There is nothing special about that. God incarnated in a culture, but not in a culture.
You can watch a video of the relevant part of the recorded interview here:
But the very fundamental biblical Christian doctrine is that God indeed became flesh in a unique way. particular nobody, Jesus Christ!
Under Bigham-Tsai, the CT’s Assistant Connectional Ministries Officer is Reverend Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, a self-proclaimed “radical” ancient board member of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) who uses both “they” and “she” pronouns. Birkhahn-Rommelfanger has publicly promoted the so-called “Equality Act” (who was accused of threatening to severely restrict freedom of conscience for dissenters of left-wing LGBTQ ideology). She also tweeted about how the NMR student outreach program “talk about polyamory” and summer a public promoter to advance a broad liberal agenda in the CMU on issues from other religions to LGBTQ inclusion to abortion to assisted suicide.
Of the significance of being the CEO of this agency, the Reverend Giovanni Arroyo of the Baltimore-Washington Conference is currently running for bishop in the Northeastern jurisdiction as an openly gay candidate, stating his desire to ‘bringing “all my identity (Latino, gay, Christian, pastor, etc.) to lead the church in this time…” He would be the second gay bishop in the UMC.
In his sermon preached at his installation service earlier this monthhe echoed UMC’s first gay bishop, Karen Oliveto, in his blasphemous criticisms of Jesus Christ himself when meeting the Syrophoenician woman. While Arroyo’s rhetoric on the same biblical passage didn’t go as far as Oliveto’s, he also spoke of Jesus Christ “developing a deeper compassion for those who are not part of the tribe of Jesus. (as if the Lord’s compassion had previously been lacking). As indicatedby John Wesley Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, which is part of the UMC’s official but largely ignored doctrinal standards, comments that Christ’s initial rejection of the woman is a pattern for testing her faith. But Arroyo countered such traditional interpretations, saying “I would say Jesus is doing some self-examination,” and suggesting the woman taught Jesus a lesson.
Arroyo was also listed as an endorser of the aforementioned letter pressing for the general filibuster of General Conference through 2024. Note that a major and understated impact of the General Conference postponement is that it stalled possibilities for more equitable representation of marginalized Africans in faith-based leadership now that they have become a majority. Thus, our denomination’s pay-as-you-go anti-racism agency is complicit in very systemic racism, in the name of unrelated agendas favored by the CEO of GCoRR!
Until recently, George Howard was a longtime senior executive of this agency, and at the same time part of the leadership team of an unofficial caucus focused on liberalizing UMC sexuality norms. At this moment, Howard was joined in the leadership of this liberal “Uniting Methodists” caucus by another general agency staff member, Brian Milford (president and CEO of United Methodist Publishing House). The UMPH is not among the general agencies of The United Methodist Church receiving major, direct funding from general church apportionment, but it is still meant to be an agency of the whole church, not just a liberal faction. American.
Staff framework David Wildman has a long history of anti-Israel activism, as documented in this 2008 profileincluding to a caucus event last year when he promoted singling out the Jewish state for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
The senior administration and programming coordinator for the United Nations and international affairs efforts of this agency is Quinn Wonderling, a self-proclaimed “angry dyke” who, through her Twitter feed, posted a stream of shrill, hyper-partisan, leftist rhetoric. For example, this pay-as-you-go public leader of United Methodism’s social witness tweeted about two Trump administration officials that she “really can’t decide who’s more swamp shit”.
Do not count on the GBCS to model high Christian politics that honors the image of God even among political opponents.
The resume that apparently prompted the GBCS to hire him included Wonderling’s previous stints as a reporter for left-leaning MSNBC as well as working for “the nation’s most read lesbian publication.”
If United Methodist leaders want to be taken seriously in their rhetoric about being a “big tent” (let alone succeed with it), they will have to become much more intentional in structuring general agency leadership and staff. to be more respectful and inclusive of conservative church members and less offensive to traditionalists’ lofty views of Jesus Christ.