It appears that the United Methodist Church is not in present danger of getting away from the Book of Discipline. What happens if we vote to stay with UMC and then everything changes? Will we be too late then?
The AWF Conference trustees issued a letter to the conference addressing the deadline. The following is an excerpt from that letter (the entire letter written on October 6 can be accessed on the AWFC website). While amenable to the annual conference, the AWF Conference Board of Trustees receives, collects, and holds in trust all real and personal property of the annual conference. Paragraphs 2512.4 and 2553.4 express the intent of General Conference to delegate to the Conference Board of Trustees the exclusive authority in establishing the terms and conditions of a local church’s departure from The United Methodist Church. In Judicial Council rulings 1420 and 1421, the council ruled it is the exclusive right of the Board of Trustees, with the advice of the cabinet, the treasurer, the benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the chancellor to negotiate terms and conditions for departing churches.
The plan to follow the provisions set forth in paragraph 2553 upon sunset will be released in the official trustees’ report in the 2023 Book of Reports. That publication is released in the spring of 2023, prior to the regularly scheduled session of annual conference.
Paragraph 2553 was approved at the 2019 General Conference allowing churches to disaffiliate for reasons related to human sexuality and retain their property.
What is the projected timeline for completion of this process and who sets it? What are the metrics for measuring progress in a timely manner?
A date for completion of the discernment process that began in November 2022 has not been specifically set. At the outset, it was estimated that the process would take 6 – 12 months. Reports of progress will be made to the Board of Stewards as it meets in the winter and spring of 2023.
How will the team determine the wishes of the members as to remaining in the UMC or going elsewhere prior to making your report to the Trustees? Our Pastors conducted a series of small group meetings in members’ homes a couple years ago, and Pastor Darren did a series of Wednesday night sessions as well. Will that information be used, will new group meetings be held, and/or will a vote take place prior to the report to the Trustees? 2. I appreciate your consulting with our Pastors, but will you also be soliciting information from groups such as the Wesleyan Covenant Association? If so, when, and if not, why? The Q & A’s in your recent report were technically correct, but I believe in a couple of cases would have benefited from a fuller explanation and additional context. There are usually two sides to most issues and my concern is that you consider all of them and not be limited to just one. Thank you for your consideration and for undertaking this important task.
The BOS has directed the discernment team:
- To gather, pray, inquire, listen, and evaluate the relevant aspects of this discussion for Fairhope UMC.
- To support the concerns of the congregation as we work to identify the critical questions that will need to be addressed in order to faithfully pursue God’s will here at Fairhope UMC.
- To help serve as witnesses and educators to the congregation at large, seeking to provide prudent and accurate information in a timely fashion.
- To seek a deeper understanding of how the issues at hand are relevant to the theology, worship, outreach, and fellowship of our local congregation.
- To present to the Board of Stewards, after a period of due diligence and discovery, information and alternatives for the church’s consideration of our next steps in the identity of mission and ministry for this congregation.
One portion of the team’s work is to gather and review information from reliable sources (including but not limited) to the Alabama/West Florida UMC Conference and the UMC at large. We seek to give factual information and answers to questions posed by our church members about the UMC, Wesleyan Covenant Association, Global Methodist Church, and others. We do plan to review the information gathered from the listening sessions held in early 2020, as well as from the study Darren presented on Wednesday nights. Several FUMC leaders attended a meeting in early October that was sponsored by the Global Methodist Church and held at Christ Wesleyan Church. Later in October, Celebrate UMC sponsored a meeting presented by leaders from the Alabama/West Florida Conference. A dozen leaders from FUMC attended that meeting by zoom. We will give progress reports to the Board of Stewards as it meets in winter and spring of 2023, but we have not been charged with determining the wishes of our members.
Information sessions and surveys are being planned for the New Year. How might we structure them in a way that would be most beneficial to this discernment process? Thank you for your consideration and any input you would like to give. We will be glad to pass your ideas on to the rest of our discernment team.
First, thank you for your commitment by prayer, presence, service and gifts to Fairhope UMC over the years and decades. Questions: 1. How will the Discernment Team determine the concerns of the Congregation? 2. Is there a small-group prayer team of congregants walking alongside you in this process so that we are all in communion? If so, how can we participate in that? 3. Alternatively, is there a schedule of meeting dates that can be shared so that we can life each of you in our prayers that the Holy Spirit will light your path at each milestone? Thank you and may the Triune God carry you through this joyous Advent season and throughout your discernment pilgrimage in the New Year. Grace, Peace and glad tidings.
We are determining the concerns of our congregation in a number of ways. Questions are submitted and concerns are shared with our pastors, with individual members of the Discernment Team and with the Discernment Team as a whole. Information sessions and surveys are being planned for the New Year. We do not currently have a small-group prayer team, but would welcome one to walk alongside us as we seek God’s direction for our church. And yes, we can share meeting dates and are more than grateful for your commitment to undergird this team in prayer.
It is important for me to know the individual stance (not the current or future stance of the denomination) of the pastor and the assistant pastor on the subject of the sanctity of marriage. If my family should join this faith community, my family needs to know exactly what the current pastor would do. Will he or she perform a same-sex marriage or any other type of same-sex union? Yes or No?
(from both Dr. McClellan and Rev. Parker) As an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, I will uphold the Discipline of the United Methodist Church – as I promised to do at my ordination – and will not perform a same-sex marriage or any other type of same-sex union.
Will the congregation vote on disaffiliation? If not, who will be making the decision?
Answer: The congregation may or may not vote on disaffiliation. No vote is required. After relevant information is distributed and a period of discerning has taken place, the Board of Stewards will make the decision on whether or not our church will vote.
When is the final date on which a decision by FUMC may be made?
Under the provisions of Paragraph 2553 (see link under “resources”), which allows churches to disaffiliate “from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals”, the date is December 31, 2023. The Alabama/West Florida Conference trustees have stated their intention to keep the financial parameters under which churches may disaffiliate the same as currently offered under Paragraph 2553 until sometime after the General Conference in April/May 2024. The financial parameters related to disaffiliation will be finalized at the AWF Annual Conference in June 2023.
The language related to human sexuality in the current Discipline for the UMC (2016) has not changed and cannot be changed except as an action in General Conference, which will be held in April/May of 2024.
If you have questions for the Discernement Team that have not been answered, please use the form below: