Why I Have Decided to Stay United Methodist


Scott DeuelBy Scott Deuel

There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty right now around what’s happening in and around the United Methodist Church, and all the buzz about disaffiliation. I am not qualified to explain the details. And honestly, much smarter people than me have written exhaustively about that subject, so I won’t attempt to add to that. I am also not a bible scholar or church historian. But since the debate has reached the doors of my own home church, I feel like I need to say something. And with the initial straw vote coming in less than three short weeks, now seems like the right time to say it.

Before I begin though, don’t be deceived; regardless of what anyone says, this whole debate begins and ends over the topic of human sexuality. Whatever your view on the subject, that’s where it began and what continues to fuel it.

So, here it is: Why I Have Decided to Stay United Methodist:


I was raised United Methodist. I was confirmed, baptized, married, and chose to raise my daughter in the same small rural Southern Illinois UM church. I left briefly when I was a teenager to explore other, more exciting church options, but the shine quickly wore off. I came right back, and soon after became a lay speaker, an Annual Conference delegate, and a lay leader, and I currently serve as the chair of the Church Council. None of this is a good reason to not want to leave – but it does illustrate my connection to the church I consider home.

Wesleyan tradition emphasizes prevenient grace, justification, and sanctification – as well as mission, service, and the primacy of scripture (which I’ll talk more about later). These principles are the basis of the theology and doctrine of the UMC, as well as my own personal worldview. So the question is, will that change just because a group of people or churches decide to leave the denomination? Of course not. Those roots are much deeper than that.

Let me state for the record, there are aspects of the United Methodist Church that I’m not entirely crazy about or don’t completely agree with. But I can undoubtedly say that I agree far more with it than I do any other major denomination. And one of the primary reasons is that it has always been considered a “big tent” church. What that means is that if we agree on the big stuff, regardless of those little things that we will inevitably disagree on, we can still worship, study, and serve together as one body – one family. Conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, evangelical, social justice centered… whatever. Our individuality, uniqueness, and diversity are exactly what make us stronger.


According to John Wesley, Reason is a fundamental principle that goes hand-in-hand with Christianity. By my own crude interpretation, that means that God gave us brains and the capacity for critical thought – so we should use them.

I have read the materials provided by the Global Methodist Church and those written by my own pastor. I have watched the videos by Rob Renfroe and listened to sermons, discussions, and debates. But I am dumbfounded by how much misinformation is being disseminated and presented as “fact”. The GMC has even invented a term, "Post-Separation UMC," to attempt to paint the church in an unflattering light; as if something fundamental is going to change just because some people are being led away from the UMC like rats being led out of Hamelin by the Pied Piper. As I said before, it’s not.

To put it in the simplest terms I can come up with, they want to leave because they think that the UMC is becoming too liberal or progressive. That’s it. The only real evidence they have of that is ongoing discussions to allow and affirm same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing LGBTQ+ persons. But as of yet, that hasn’t happened. Sure, GMC supporters will bring up a couple of extreme examples – always the same few – in order to frighten the more conservative members into thinking that it’s more widespread than it really is, or that it’s like an infectious disease rapidly spreading across the country. But again, it’s really not. Those are just scare tactics.

To me, it seems like a natural extension of the state of our current politics. The divide between those considered liberal and those considered conservative is growing wider and wider for no apparent reason, eliminating any chance of compromise or collaboration, and precipitating the need to vilify and demonize the other side. That mentality has leached into our churches – and that’s not healthy or okay.


“I once was blind, but now I see.”

I was once asked why I believed in God or what proof I could present for my faith. I replied that I couldn’t provide any written or scientific proof – all I can really tell you is how I have experienced the transformational, sustaining, loving hand of God in my own life.

I was essentially raised in the church and have been a Christian most of my life, but my moment (conversion, being saved, accepting Jesus into my heart… whatever you want to call it) came in 1983 at Beulah Youth Institute church camp after what can only in retrospect be considered a terrible hellfire and brimstone sermon. I actually went up to the altar twice – two nights in a row – because I was afraid the first one didn’t take since my life wasn’t magically or radically different as a result of my first trip. My pastor, in his gentle, caring way explained – much like the old lady in the Geico commercial – “that’s not how it works – that’s not how any of this works!”

Thank God my experience didn’t end there. My faith is not the same as it was when I was 12. It has grown and matured and evolved over time. It’s taken many left turns and traveled long, winding paths through the dark woods as well as the bright sunshine. I have had amazing spiritual mentors along the way and powerful examples of true, living faith – and it’s all led me here. If you want to label me progressive or liberal – that's fine – I can live with that. But I’m also happy to work side-by-side with my more conservative brothers and sisters as long as we are living out the words and directives of Jesus Christ. Because of my experience, I believe that God’s love in action can change the world.


Okay – this can be an enormous blog post all on its own – so let’s keep this one simple and straightforward. If you want a more detailed look at what the UMC believes about the bible – and will continue to believe “post-separation”, check out this link, https://www.umc.org/en/content/theological-guidelines-scripture

The Bible was written, compiled, translated, and passed down through generations by men – but it was divinely inspired by God. It is a holy and sacred text – the source of our doctrines – the authority for our lives – and the roadmap to reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of Jesus and the sustaining of the Holy Spirit. It is a love story, a measuring rod, and a guidebook. But it is not meant to be read literally. It is intended to be interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit, and understood through the lenses of tradition, experience, and reason.

Once again, the GMC wants to allude to a future where the UMC discounts or discards the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth.


I hate that we have been forced to take sides. I hate that there has to be an “us” and a “them”. I hate that there is discord between brothers and sisters in Christ. But this is where we are.

Yes, there are things about the United Methodist Church that I would like to see changed. And I will continue to fight for those changes. Change and growth are good things. That’s why the General Conference meets every four years, to discuss revisions to The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions. And I’m sorry to be the one to have to say this out loud, but as society changes – our social principles should evolve to reflect and address those changes. These books are not divinely inspired scripture – they’re books that can and should be updated and edited.

But I cannot in good conscience, cast a vote to disaffiliate in order to join a denomination that was established primarily to stop the discussion about human sexuality and deny the full inclusion of my LGBTQ+ friends and family into the church. I can’t and I won’t. At the very least, the UMC is still open to the discussion.

Nor can I be a part of a denomination that has deemed it necessary to recruit clergy, members, and even whole churches through what I see as a pattern of deceit, fearmongering, and unfair maligning of my church. That is certainly not how Jesus taught us to treat each other.

This has not been an easy decision. There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth. But If my home church votes to disaffiliate, I will mourn – I will grieve – I will wish them the best and will continue to pray for its members that I will always love – but I will find another UMC church that believes and is willing to live out the motto, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”


UPDATE -- February 15, 2023

On February 5, 2023, the church that I’ve been a member of for 40 years – the church where I have attended and served for as long as I can remember – the church that I believed I would attend until the day I died – for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist. Nearly 80% of the members in attendance voted in favor of disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. And the process to do so has officially begun.

The following Sunday, out of respect for the other church members that we have served & worshipped with for so long, my wife and I submitted what was essentially a letter of resignation. We stepped down from the various committees and positions we held, and turned in our keys.

It was an easy decision – but the execution was heart-breaking and painful.

Some may think we are overreacting. That’s okay. We have strong convictions that we have no other choice but to act on. And now we start another potentially painful process: finding a different church to attend and eventually transfer our memberships to – a church that wants to stay UM like we do. Obviously, we know that no congregation is perfect, and we’re not particularly social or outgoing people, so we are going into this knowing that it will be uncomfortable. But we have to do what we have to do.

"There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens:

  • a time for giving birth and a time for dying,

  • a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,

  • a time for killing and a time for healing,

  • a time for tearing down and a time for building up,

  • a time for crying and a time for laughing,

  • a time for mourning and a time for dancing,

  • a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

  • a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,

  • a time for searching and a time for losing,

  • a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,

  • a time for tearing and a time for repairing,

  • a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,

  • a time for loving and a time for hating,

  • a time for war and a time for peace."

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Right now, for my wife and me, it is time to move forward - time to find peace and unity - time to reject this unnecessary conflict - time to find a place where the words "diversity and inclusion" aren't said with a snarl of derision - time to silence the avalanche of misinformation - time to be happy again.

Who knew that staying United Methodist would hurt so much?

(Scott Deuel was a member of the Carrier Mills UMC when his initial post was written. Both the original post and the update are reprinted from Scott's blog, https://sadeuel.wixsite.com/arachnerdsblog