You may or may not be aware that the United Methodist Church has been in a painful season of division and conflict over such issues as same-sex marriage, the ordination of practicing LGBTQIA+ clergy, and the enforcement of our book of discipline. Some churches have already left the denomination and formed new denominations such as the Global Methodist Church or joined existing Wesleyan denominations.
In the interests of keeping our congregation informed, I want to link the latest update from our Annual Conference about disaffiliating here: Cal-Pac Trustees letter on disaffiliation.
If you want the full background on what has been happening, here is a YouTube video that explains it well: The United Methodist Church Split.
You may be wondering why this has not been something our church has talked about recently. As a congregation, we are theologically diverse. We agree on the authority of Scripture and on the person of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, but we have diverse opinions about politics and social issues. We want to have a culture of grace for these differences as well as healthy, respectful debate, with Scripture as our guide.
Also, the denomination has been in a holding pattern after General Conference 2019. Due to Covid, additional General Conferences have been delayed, with the next one being in 2024. There have been no new decisions made denominationally. Individual churches have decided to leave the denomination on their own in the meantime.
In my opinion, the process of disaffiliation, and indeed this whole season of conflict in our denomination, has not produced Christ-like fruit in our churches or in individual believers. It has created winners and losers in the body and has demanded that we make simplistic judgments and forced us to prematurely take sides on complex issues. I believe this has prevented us from going deeper in our understanding, compassion, and faithfulness to the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
That being said, it is every United Methodist’s right and indeed obligation to consider their own place in relation to the denomination. As a congregation, it would be good to consider the realities of staying in or disaffiliating from the denomination.
In order to disaffiliate from the UMC with the church property, a congregation would need 2/3 of the membership voting to do so. We would also need to pay the denomination 50% of the value of the property of the church, in addition to other costs. The disaffiliation would then need to be approved by the Annual Conference.
There are quite a number of hurdles to leaving the denomination with the property, and a congregation would have to have a good deal of organizational will, financial capital and theological consensus to leave. It would also need to find a new denominational home.
I don’t believe this is realistic for our congregation. I think it will come down more to individuals following their conscience about where they hold their local church and denominational membership.
No one knows what the future holds. General Conference is a year away and there could be some changes through that meeting. I plan to follow God’s leading through the Holy Spirit as best I can. He knows the way, and I trust he will lead all who put their faith in him into a better future.