Phyllis Tickle said the Great Emergence will be as earth-shaking as the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, impacting social, political and religious institutions. This far-reaching, multi-faceted change has various overlapping crosscurrents, including a new spirit of congregational autonomy.
Some congregations that vote to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church will join the Global Methodist Church. It’s not a binary choice. Disaffiliating churches will have other options. Frazer Church in Montgomery plans to affiliate with the Free Methodist Church, which was founded in 1860.
Yesterday’s post cited a large local church whose leaders have unanimously recommended disaffiliation from the UMC to “join a network of like-minded Wesleyan large churches.” It’s a move toward homogeneity and congregational autonomy within an easy-to-exit network.
As a way of solidifying his rule and unifying his subjects, Emperor Constantine gathered autonomous Christian leaders to agree on basic beliefs and practices for a religious hierarchy within a “Christian” empire. Monastic movements brought alternative structures, as did the Protestant Reformation.
This is a new chapter in the long search for religious freedom within a unity of meaningful identity. It’s difficult for political parties, Christian communities, and amusement park operators. As people “choose sides,” an increasing number of people are choosing “none of the above.”