The UMC in Eurasia leaves the worldwide United Methodist Church

The plan of the UMC in Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to leave the worldwide United Methodist Church and form an autonomous Church was approved by a very large majority of the delegates to General Conference taking place in Charlotte, NC.
On April 25, 2024, by a vote of 672 to 67, the four Annual Conferences of the Eurasian Episcopal Area were allowed to leave the worldwide United Methodist Church and form an autonomous Church, the "Christian Methodist Church". This step was preceded by countless discussions and several resolutions at different levels. It had been clear for some time that the UMC in Eurasia would leave The United Methodist Church. But those responsible - and especially the leading Bishop Eduard Khegay - wanted to go down this path within the framework of the provisions of the "Book of Discipline" provided for this - and in an attitude of mutual respect.
Prior to General Conference's decision, the four Annual Conferences concerned as well as the Central Conference of Northern Europe and Eurasia had already agreed to this path. And the members of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, which had met in Charlotte, NC, immediately prior to General Conference, had also found a very clear yes for the present plan.
Now that General Conference has made its decision, the final step will be for the Central Conference of Northern Europe and Eurasia, which will meet in April 2025, to ratify the resolution.
Despite the high level of approval, the feelings of many of those present were very mixed. Bishop Harald Rückert from Germany, for example, said: "We feel both the pain of parting and the gratitude for the way in which this could happen." Christine Schneider, alternate delegate of the Annual Conference Switzerland-France-North Africa to General Conference and member of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, also said: "It is a sad day. My prayers accompany the churches in Eurasia on their way to autonomy. I am just glad that this separation could be done peacefully. If we must go our separate ways, then this is the right way."
Bishop Eduard Khegay himself was no different. "This is like leaving from home for us," he put his feelings into words, before adding: "My hope is that we can maintain our friendships and relationships. We want to remain your sisters and brothers."
Following General Conference's decision, he pointed to various challenges and hardships - the division between East and West, geopolitical power struggles, economic ups and downs and also theological controversies. "But today I would simply like to express my gratitude." Gratitude for the decision of General Conference, but also gratitude for the many ways in which the worldwide United Methodist Church has supported the UMC in Eurasia over the decades.
Bishop Christian Alsted, who is responsible for the Nordic-Baltic-Ukraine Episcopal Area, also referred to the many years of cooperation: "This will be the end of a decades-long relationship within the Central Conference in which we have engaged in mission together, worshipped together and stood in fellowship with one another. While I regret the decision, I understand and respect the need of our brothers and sisters in Eurasia to leave The United Methodist Church - and I pray that God will bless and guide them as they move into their future under the leadership of my good colleague Bishop Eduard Khegay."
Author: Urs Schweizer (Sources: United Methodist News Service)
Photo: Bishop Eduard Khegay (© UMNS, Mike DuBose)