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January 2023 Discernment Team Questions & Answers

January 2023 Discernment Team Questions & Answers

by on January 26, 2023

Question:

How can the Church know what the membership thinks about separating from the UMC if it doesn't have a vote? 

Answer:

While some members of our congregation have made up their minds as to what path they feel the church should take, many have not. The Discernment Team was formed to provide factual information to our congregation. We have begun by answering questions from the congregation, providing information from the Book of Discipline and relevant information from other UMC congregations of similar size which have decided to both stay UMC or disaffiliate. The next steps are the Information Meetings beginning February 1st which present facts on remaining a UMC, disaffiliating, delaying a vote and the financial position of our church. After the meetings and the feedback, we will prayerfully consider next steps. 

This congregation has been part of the UMC or its predecessor denominations since its founding over 100 years ago. With the guidance and grace both the General Conference and the AWFC have provided, doesn’t it make sense to take the time to discern God’s will for Fairhope UMC? 

The Board of Stewards will determine if and when a vote to disaffiliate takes place. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” - Hebrews 3:5

Question:

Will the congregation vote on disaffiliation? If not, who will be making the decision?

Answer:

Our task as the discernment team is to gather facts, questions and opinions and submit to the FUMC Board of Stewards and after their review, they will decide if and when to propose a vote be made by members of FUMC.

  

Question:

When is the final date on which a decision by FUMC may be made?

Answer:

There is a precise deadline of 12/31/2023 for disaffiliation under paragraph 2553. The Bishop and conference trustees of the Alabama West Florida Conference, of which we are a member, are proposing to the Annual Conference that meets in June 2023 that an alternative process under paragraph 2549 for closing churches be used until after the General Conference of 2024 with the terms of disaffiliation being the same as those offered under 2553. If FUMC waits until after the June 2023 Annual Conference, and somehow the proposal to use 2549 fails to gain support, there still is time to use the process under 2553 before the Annual Conference special meeting in November 2023 to consider petitions to disaffiliate.

 

Question:

I have a concern for the Methodist hospitals, universities, children's homes, and UMCOR. Exactly how are these institutions funded and what will happen to them since a large number of churches are disaffiliating?

Answer:

Concern for funding of Methodist hospitals, universities, children’s homes and UMCOR is a definite concern and will be affected by pro rata amount of church members who disaffiliate, which would be helped to some extent by the payment of some of the apportionments of those churches who choose to disaffiliate. Let’s keep in mind, numbers are not exact, but approximately 198 churches in the North Alabama conference of approximately 694 have disaffiliated, and of those who disaffiliated except for Vestavia Hills UMC and 6 others, all the other churches who voted to disaffiliate were less than 75 and most were less than 50 members.  

Question:

Failure of bishops (who are appointed for life) to follow the Book of Discipline is one reason some are leaving our church. Are there any plans to restructure or modify the powers given to bishops?

Answer:

In the U.S., bishops are elected (vs appointed) and normally serve in one area for up to two 4-year terms, but they can continue for a third term with special approval of the jurisdictional conference. At this time, there are no new plans to restructure or modify the powers given to the bishops. The Nov 17th, 2022, version of UMNews speaks to the election and consecration of Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth; the subsequent complaint filed by Rev. W. Timothy McClendon and what the non-confidential, online complaint may mean to the General Conference of spring 2024. We invite you to read it here.

 

Question:

Why would anyone want to belong to a church whose leaders don't adhere to the rules established by the church?

Answer:

We believe Tom Berlin’s presentation on Four Types of Methodists provides a clear answer to your question.

Watch presentation.

Download PDF.


Question:

I just read on this site "It appears that the UMC is not in present danger of getting away from the Book of Discipline" 1. How can such a misleading, false evaluation of the current condition of United Methodism be claimed? There are numerous disturbing incidences of UM ministers and bishops taking actions outside of the Book of Discipline and preaching theology contrary to our Articles of Religion.
2. Why isn't our discernment team informing our congregation about what is really going on in our denomination? 3. Why can't our discernment team post articles which present both sides of the disaffiliation question so our congregation will be informed rather than shielded?

Answer:

The statement, “It appears that the UMC is not in present danger of getting away from the Book of Discipline” was a portion of a question posted by a member of our congregation on the discernment team page. Please view the response from the team here.

The discernment process takes a significant amount of time, preparation, and prayerful consideration. As a team we do recognize instances of United Methodist clergy acting outside of the policies within the UM Book Of Discipline. After prayerful and time-consuming research, we found that these occurrences amount to a very small percent of the ordained clergy; of the number of marriages performed and sermons taught annually within the United States (not including the United Methodist clergy abroad).

We are working to provide prudent and accurate information to the congregation of Fairhope UMC and consider views from all “sides.” We strive to present information reflective of the United Methodist denomination at large without showing an unequal bias or focus to few events/persons that may alter the perception of the majority. The discernment team does not intend to “shield” the congregation; we strive to provide complete transparency during this process. We welcome all questions to the online portal and look forward to the in-person meetings next month.


Question
:

When the church has a vote on disaffiliation, what/who is a professing member of the church? This was referenced in Bishop Grave's most recent letter dated January3, 2023. Another question regarding this issue is how many professing members at FUMC would be in the eligible voting pool?

Answer:

Definition of Membership from Paragraph 215 in the Discipline: The membership of a local United Methodist church shall include all people who have been baptized and all people who have professed their faith.1. The baptized membership of a local United Methodist church shall include all baptized people who have received Christian baptism in the local congregation or elsewhere, or whose membership has been transferred to the local United Methodist church subsequent to baptism in some other congregation.2. The professing membership of a local United Methodist church shall include all baptized people who have come into membership by profession of faith through appropriate services of the baptismal covenant in the ritual or by transfer from other churches.3. For statistical purposes, church membership is equated to the number of people listed on the roll of professing members.4. All baptized or professing members of any local United Methodist church are members of the worldwide United Methodist connection and members of the church universal.

 

We are working to determine the number of eligible voting members.

Question:

What is being done to prepare the FUMC membership for the upcoming February information meetings?

Answer:

As a means to help prepare members for the information sessions being held in February, the Discernment Team continues to answer questions sent in to the link on the church website and post articles and links to articles and other resources on the church website and in other regular publications. Additionally, the agenda for the information sessions and accompanying videos will be posted in advance. Recognizing that prayer is the most important preparation, a lay member has offered to organize a prayer focus by inviting members to sign up to pray for the team and process during this season of discernment.

January 2023 Questions & Answers

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