There have been very few disaffiliations in Africa for one reason: Because Africa does not want them.
That line really could be the end of this email…but if you are a regular…you know that is not likely.
The trio of far-right advocacy groups are coming to General Conference 2024 to try to further divide the United Methodist Church. They have submitted petitions extending ¶2553 to allow the disaffiliation process to continue in the United States and extend it to the Central Conferences. Their goal is to have as many U.S. churches as possible leave the UMC and join their denomination. The most outrageous part is they are claiming a patronizing advocacy for Africa to justify their own self-interest. We must remember, in 2022, the Africa College of Bishops officially denounced these US groups and their Africa Initiative, saying in part: “the Africa Initiative is now working with the Wesleyan Covenant Association to destroy our United Methodist Church.” 
Rev. Tom Lambrecht of Good News correctly notes: “Until now, the biggest obstacle to the African church moving toward this goal [of disaffiliations] has been the refusal of its bishops to allow African churches to disaffiliate.” But then he conjures a conspiracy by asking if General Conference 2024 “would seek to keep Africans trapped in the denomination through economic dependency and heavy-handed rules.”  He knows full well the disaffiliation rules barely apply to Africa. (See 4. below) And, the author of the Traditional Plan is suddenly concerned about “heavy-handed rules.” That’s rich.
Rev. Dr. Scott Field, the freshly minted President of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) wasted no time jumping onto the disinformation train: “The disaffiliation process that has been offered to UM congregations in the US has been denied to UM congregations in Africa, the Philippines, and Europe.” He calls this “disaffiliation discrimination” and “institutional racism” and a “glaring equity gap.” He then gives a partial truth that “there is nothing in ¶2553 restricting its application exclusively to the US.” Then he inaccurately attacks our Bishops, saying, “that restriction comes solely from the UM Council of Bishops.”  He knows full well this is not the US Bishops, but rather it is a Covid-quirk in the standard practice of General Conference. (See 1. below)
Not to be outdone, Rev. Jerry Kulah, the leader of the Africa Initiative (the denounced voice of the WCA in Africa) recently told delegates in Indiana that he was “shocked and surprised when the Council of Bishops informed Central Conferences in Africa that [disaffiliation] implementation did not apply to us.” He knows full well that these rules of delayed Central Conference implementation have been in place as long as he has been a delegate—and he voted for this delay in 2019! (See 1. below) He also told the delegates in Indiana the Africa Initiative needed disaffiliations as a quid pro quo in order to not actively sabotage regionalization.
6 Fallacies about Africa Disaffiliations
- Delayed Implementation is not normal. Yes, it is. ¶543.17 says, “In a central conference…using a language other than English, legislation passed by a General Conference shall not take effect until 12 months after the close of that General Conference in order to afford the necessary time to make adaptations…” General Conference 2019—controlled by Traditionalists—amended that to say everything adopted in 2019 would not take effect until after General Conference 2020. It is no one’s fault that Covid 19 postponed General Conference. In fact, the postponement was necessary in part to ensure global participation! No one was getting visas for international travel during a pandemic.
- Churches outside the US cannot leave. Yes, they can and they are. Rev. David Livingston, Board member for Mainstream UMC, recently called out the hypocrisy. The Global Methodist Church (GMC) is publicly celebrating the churches in Bulgaria that have already joined them. They also boast about the other annual conferences in Eastern Europe working their way out of the UMC to join the GMC. And, the GMC has announced that several churches in Kenya have joined them. So, either it is impossible to leave the UMC, or it is not. You cannot publicly celebrate disaffiliations in Central Conferences, on the one hand, and then bemoan the fact that it is not possible on the other. 
- There are no other paths for disaffiliations. Yes, there are. A few US Annual Conferences have chosen to re-interpret ¶2549 to accomplish church disaffiliations. If US Annual Conferences can creatively interpret ¶2549, so could Annual Conferences outside the US: IF they wanted to.
- Africa cannot make their own rules. Yes, they can. ¶101 in the United Methodist Book of Discipline ALREADY says, “Each central conference [those outside the US] may make changes and adaptations to the General Book of Discipline to more fruitfully accomplish our mission in various contexts.” The only parts that are not adaptable are sections I-V. Notably, ¶2553 falls under part VI, which IS adaptable. If Africa wanted to adapt ¶2553 (or something that looks and sounds just like it) to allow more disaffiliations, they could have already done so. It is the Africa Central Conferences choosing not to have disaffiliations, not some nefarious, racist, liberal, episcopal plot.
- This is not political. Yes, it is. At General Conference 2019, Traditionalists passed ¶2553 to say disaffiliations can ONLY be for disagreements about homosexuality. Breaking News: there is VERY LITTLE disagreement about homosexuality in Africa—and none among the African Bishops. Ninety percent of the African delegates at GC 2019 voted for the Traditional Plan—a plan they can opt out of, but the US churches cannot. Disaffiliations within Africa are entirely political and have nothing to do with differences in beliefs or Biblical interpretation.
- If Africa wants to leave, the denomination can stop them. No, it cannot. There is already a path in ¶572 entitled“Becoming an autonomous Methodist.” If one or more Central Conferences in Africa suddenly announced they were joining the GMC or leaving to become autonomous, what is the General Conference going to do? Refuse to give the Discipline required vote? If they leave anyway, will we sue Africa? In what court? For what damages? Honestly, is anyone suggesting we would try to take their property? The Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Annual Conference just had their departure process rejected by the UMC Judicial Council in April of this year, but the Judicial Council also recognized their ruling, “may not change the practical reality of this unlawful departure.”  The process only matters if you want an ongoing relationship.
Bottom Line: Africa is in the driver’s seat for their own destiny. The WCA, Good News, and the GMC have already abandoned Africa . They are shamelessly using Africa disaffiliations as cover for their own self-interest at home.
This is what we are up against at General Conference 2024. The far-right advocacy groups will simply not stop trying to divide our church. The season of division is over. It is time to move past conflict into mission. It is time for the new churches to thrive—both the Global Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church. Please help Mainstream UMC stop the fight, once and for all.
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Rev. Dr. Mark Holland
Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
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This is an updated version of this post that includes minor grammatical corrections. It happens. Read the Africa College of Bishops’ complete statement denouncing the WCA and their Africa Initiative: https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/files/statement+from+africa+colleges+of+bishops+-+sept+8.pdf  Read Tom Lambrecht’s article here: https://goodnewsmag.org/divisions-in-africa/  Read Scott Field’s article here: https://wesleyancovenant.org/2023/09/26/take-your-marbles-and-leave-the-united-methodist-church-thats-what-i-received-in-an-email-last-week-and-heres-what-i-said-in-response/  Read David Livingston’s article here: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/irds-disinformation-campaign/  Read about the Judicial Council decision 1473 here: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/court-rules-on-exiting-clergy-and-churches.  Read the Math about how the GMC has abandoned Africa: https://mainstreamumc.com/blog/math-gmc-has-abandoned-africa/