A common charge leveled against the United Methodist Church, like other mainline denominations, is that its bureaucracy is out of touch with the people in the pews. Grassroots Methodists, however, delivered a strong message to the 998 voting delegates of their general conference, the 8.8 million-member denomination’s highest lawmaking body, which met last month in Louisville, Kentucky.

The message came in the form of the “Memphis Declaration,” drafted earlier this year and signed by nearly 200,000 conservative United Methodists. The document set forth, without equivocation, how its signers wanted delegates to vote on major issues facing this year’s quadrennial meeting. Among other things, the statement, drafted in January, affirmed faithful, monogamous relationships between men and women, and it called on the denomination to “cease to debate homosexual practice as if the witness of the Scripture and of the tradition of the Church were not clear from the beginning.”

Alleging that the church’s boards and agencies fail to serve the local church, the declaration also supported a study committee’s recommendation that the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) move out of the New York metropolitan area, where it currently shares space with the National Council of Churches and other mainline, ecumenical groups. And it called on delegates to mandate the exclusive use of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in reference to the Trinity in church worship resources.

Maxie Dunnam, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis and the main force behind the declaration, said the issues it raised reflect division in the church “not between political conservatives and liberals, but between evangelicals and nonevangelicals.” ...

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