By Sterling McGinn

Several local Methodist Churches have disaffiliated themselves with the United Methodist Conference to become nondenominational or join a new denomination of Methodists known as Global. The local change is part of a major fracture due in large to a conflict in beliefs that center around their stance on the LGBTQ community.

Congregations in Engadine, McMillan, Grand Marais and Germfask have disaffiliated from the United Methodist Conference. Newberry, Paradise and Hulbert are the only three in the area that have decided to remain United Methodist.

United Methodists have long debated the ordination of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) clergy and whether the clergy should marry same-sex couples.

“This is not something new,” said Pastor Devin Lawrence, who serves McMillan, Grand Marais and Germfask congregations. “This has been fought for eight to ten years. There was a pretty dramatic shift about six to eight years ago—I guess that is when I noticed it—we seemed to get a lot more progressive and political at our annual meetings,” he explained. “Six years ago was the first vote that actually talked about changing our doctrine.”

The new denomination that has formed is known as Global Methodist and was founded in May of 2022 by more conservative and traditional United Methodist members opposing the conference’s failure to enforce bans on LGBTQ clergy members and the church giving clergy the authority to marry same-sex couples.

A quarter of United Methodist Churches across the country, and over 60 in Michigan, have joined the Global denomination or disaffiliated to become non-denominational.

“This split of 1 and 4 churches is the biggest since the Civil War,” Lawrence said. “They had a lot of churches dividing because of what was going on.”

“I lead three churches that left—when we first when into our meeting, the very first thing we said was that [the LGBTQ factor] was off the table…we are not going to bring it up,” Lawrence said.
Though Lawrence’s three churches are not part of the new Global denomination, his churches voted to leave United Methodist for other reasons.

He noted that that there are many other changes and requirements coming out of the United Methodist Conference that really has not been talked about.

“There is legislation coming here this year at an annual conference that is 900 pages long. They are changing our doctrine; they are changing what we say within the Bible and removing traditional hymns—much more politically controlled then just the message of Jesus Christ.”

One of the other new United Methodist orders require churches to remove their American Flags out of the sanctuaries. “It’s not all about the LGBTQ issues, some of these churches are splitting off for other reasons. A lot of it has to do with traditional values.”

When the United Methodists were formed in 1969, the individual churches gave the buildings to the conference. Now that churches have disaffiliated, each church had to buy their property back from the conference. The churches in Germfask, Grand Marais and McMillan wanted to get away from the corporate structure of United Methodist.

Lawrence also feels that splitting from United Methodist will allow for their money to stay locally. “United Methodist had our yearly fundraiser that would buy wells in Africa—you are sending all this money and they are going to get a well or a cow or something for people in Africa, yet surrounding every church are locals that can’t feed their families.”

McMillan resident Shelia Reed has been a member of the McMillan church for approximately ten years, and she feels moving out of United Methodist could help locals more.

“Having left the conference, we can do more to help the locals,” Reed said.

Lawrence, a Germfask native, says his three church congregations have grown a good deal in the last year or so.

The Engadine Methodist Church, which has shifted to the new Global denomination, is now pastored by Steffani Glygeroff, who came to the area from Burt and Birch Run Methodist Churches. Pastor Glygeroff had wanted to serve a church in the Upper Peninsula.

The Methodist Church in Newberry, one of the community’s oldest congregations, has decided to remain United Methodist.

Newberry resident Mary Brooks is currently serving as pastor for Newberry.

Former pastor Jackie Roe, who served both Newberry and Engadine, left to serve at Rollin Center United Methodist Church in Manitou Beach, Mi.

Brooks previously served as pastor for the Paradise and Hulbert Methodist churches.

“Everyone is welcome—our goal is to grow the church and bring people to Christ,” Pastor Brooks said. “Our congregation is aging, and we realize we have to get the word out to keep the church open.”

Sunday services in Newberry will remain at 9 a.m.