FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHY ARE CONGREGATIONS CONSIDERING DISAFFILIATION FROM THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (UMC)?
- While the conflict involving human sexuality normally dominates any public discussion of the challenges currently facing the UMC, the conflict is but a symptom of what is really at issue. Disregard for the Book of Discipline by many bishops and others in leadership positions and a lack of accountability for those who choose to preach and practice the “United Methodist” faith in a manner inconsistent with UMC theology, inconsistent with The Bible and with disregard to The Book of Discipline.
- The UMC is facing a numerical and financial crisis that will affect and possibly hinder the future ministry of the church.
- The UMC continues in a downward decline in membership in the United States. Two years after its formation in 1968, the UMC had 10.7 million U.S. members. It now has 6.3 million, an average loss of about 90,000 annually.
- These declines also impact the financial stability of the UMC, and this instability will be exacerbated with more traditional churches exiting the UMC.
- There are estimates that the denominational budget may diminish by as much as 40%+ over the next two years. This will affect the amount of funds appropriated for missions and ministries.
- At the 2019 Called Session of the General Conference, a paragraph (Paragraph 2553) was added to the Discipline which allows churches to disaffiliate while retaining their property; however, that paragraph will become void on December 31, 2023. Many churches have entered the discernment process to allow a decision related to disaffiliation prior to that deadline.
WHAT ARE SOME SPECIFIC TOPICS THAT ARE CAUSING THIS CONFLICT?
- Human Sexuality
- Ordination Standards not being upheld
- Improper teaching of theology (God is singular and not Trinity, Jesus sinned, there was no virgin birth, etc.)
- Sanctity of Life
- Lack of accountability by leadership
WHY CAN’T THE UMC RESOLVE THESE CONFLICTS AND REMAIN CONNECTED?
- It has tried but failed.
- A group of progressive, moderate, and traditional UMC leaders worked together to propose a compromise titled the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” (the Protocol) which would have provided for an amicable separation of the UMC into two churches of the UMC with no financial penalty – one traditional and one more progressive.
- The Protocol has been deemed “dead” by most factions of leadership in the UMC. Several of its creators have since endorsed other possible legislation to be considered at the 2024 General Conference.
- COVID caused the cancelation of the 2020 Annual Conference and again in 2021. Then, in the spring of 2022, the UMC again postponed the Annual Conference (scheduled for the fall of 2022). So now, the UMC has scheduled its next General Conference for 2024.
- Because of the continued postponements, a large faction of traditional leaders in the UMC announced the formation of the Global Methodist Church (GMC) on May 1, 2022.
HOW WILL OUR CHURCH DECIDE TO STAY IN THE UMC OR TO DISAFFILIATE?
The Bishop of the North Alabama Conference has established the process we are required to follow.
The process includes the following:
- The formation of a Discernment Team
- Discernment team making a recommendation to the CB Leadership Team
- Finally, a vote by members of the congregation
To aid in that process, our bishop also provided a framework, referred to as The Bishop Wallace-Padgett Principles for Discernment, which the Discernment Team has adopted. This process is not optional, nor was it developed by the Discernment Team or our clergy.
- Creating a team that represents the demographics of CB
- Creating a timeline for church wide information and listening sessions (see dates posted)
- Formulate a recommendation on whether to disaffiliate or not based on research and listening to the congregation
- Evaluate all various affiliation options available.
A final recommendation will be presented to the Leadership Team in November. If disaffiliation is recommended and adopted by the Leadership Team, a church conference will take place. At the church conference, every church member present will be allowed to vote. A 2/3 majority vote is required to disaffiliate. After the church-wide vote, action of the Annual Conference is required to finalize disaffiliation. Our bishop has called a special Annual Conference on December 10 to consider disaffiliation requests of churches in the North Alabama Conference.
WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS?
- Remain with the United Methodist Church • Join the new Global Methodist Church • Join another Methodist denomination such as the Free Methodists • Become an independent Methodist church with the possibility of joining a network of other large former UMC churches that is under development, or later deciding to join another Methodist denomination.
WILL WE STILL BE A METHODIST CHURCH IF WE DISAFFILIATE FROM THE UMC?
Yes. All of the options that are being seriously considered would keep us under the current Methodist theology and doctrine.
WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR PROPERTY IF WE DISAFFILIATE?
Because of the UMC Trust Clause, our property is currently owned by the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. The UMC has developed a formula such that a disaffiliating church must pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation and an additional 12 months of apportionments, as well as its share of the conference’s unfunded pension liability. In that event, the property of the church is transferred to the local church.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST OUR CHURCH TO DISAFFILIATE?
As of August 15, 2022, if we were to disaffiliate, the estimated amount we would have to pay was approximately $635,000. However, due to rising interest rates, that amount has fallen from $906,000 in March 2022 and is expected to continue to decrease. The unfunded pension liability is inversely affected by the rising Federal Funds rate. Our annual apportionments are about $100,000 annually. A final number will be available October 1, 2022. The Finance Committee has been tasked to review all of the funding avenues available to the church to pay the exit fee and will present a final recommendation to the Discernment Team in mid-September.
WILL THE GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE CHANGE?
- Nothing will change about how our church is led and governed. It will continue to be organized as described in the 2016 Book of Discipline.
- Disaffiliation will not result in lay leadership changes.
- Our clergy will be free to make personal career decisions once a disaffiliation decision is made.
HOW IS THE SENIOR PASTOR INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS?
Vaughn Stafford is co-chair of the Discernment Team along with our Lay Leader. Vaughn as well as the other appointed clergy will provide theological perspective, history and context to the ongoing issues as needed.
IF WE DISAFFILIATE, HOW WILL OUR WORSHIP, MISSIONS AND PROGRAMS CHANGE?
They will not change. We will continue to be true to our mission by engaging people through relational ministry, equipping disciples for Christ, and employing their gifts through missions.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ISSUES WITHIN THE UMC?
We have established a library of research materials located on our website. This material covers many issues and perspectives concerning the UMC. This library of resources contains all of the articles and videos studied by the Discernment Team as well as information provided by the North Alabama Conference.
DURING THIS TIME, WHAT CAN I DO?
PRAY, PRAY and then PRAY some more. Please pray for our church, our Discernment Team, our staff and others in the UMC. Please join our Discernment Prayer Team by committing to:
- Pray daily for the CBUMC family to know and follow Jesus’ will for His church
- Pray daily for the wisdom for our leadership and discernment for all
- Participate in a prayer vigil
For more information contact Stefanie Phillips (firstname.lastname@example.org)
IS THERE A WAY I CAN SHARE MY THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS ON THE ISSUE WITH THE DISCERNMENT TEAM?
YES. The Team welcomes and encourages all comments and questions through our email at email@example.com and/or at our scheduled Listening Sessions on Sunday, Sept 11, Wednesday, Sept 14, Sunday, Sept 25, and Wednesday, Sept 28.