Disaffiliation

A NOTE FROM BROTHER JOHN MILES

Dear Friends,

Our Sunday night disaffiliation vote was difficult and stressful.  I want you to know how proud I was of the way everyone conducted themselves.  It was a long, hot, and confusing meeting but you were patient and courteous!  I also must say I was touched by the number of church members who cared enough about their church to go through that ordeal in order to vote.  As I looked at all of you piling into Wesley Hall, I had a sense of peace that whatever the outcome this was a decision of our whole church.

I know many people at the Church Conference were disappointed and hurt by the results of the vote.  Please know that we are committed to being the same church we have always been.  Our arguments and concerns are not with one another but with our larger denomination.  I am sure that some of you are considering leaving our church.  I understand that.  If you feel in good conscience that you can no longer worship with us, may God guide you to a church that better reflects your values.  As your pastor, I want you to know that I hope you stay.  We need you and want you in our church.  I know I speak for the whole church when I say this.  My hope is however we voted we can get back to our purpose of “Putting Jesus First”.

In the coming weeks we will be doing a series of sermons on what comes next.  I would like to ask you three questions.  I hope some of you will answer them.

First, what is it you love most about this church?  Second, what is one area of this church that could be improved?  Finally, what is a new ministry that you would like to see in this church that would allow us to get better at “Putting Jesus First”?

I know this has been a difficult season in the life of our church.  I am hopeful we can begin to heal and unite around our purpose.  I am committed to that, I hope you are too!

Yours in Christ,
John

A Look At Our Finances

The church is financially strong as of the end of 2020 and 2021.

Although net assets decreased by $671,396 in 2020, this total includes non-cash transactions for depreciation ($608,524) and a provision for bad debt ($641,568). As the audit note explains, this was the total of capital pledges on 12/31/20 that were uncollected at the end of the 3-year campaign. The pledges were written off as bad debt since revenue was recognized at the date of the pledge. However, this does not take into account all the unpledged capital receipts collected or receipts in excess of other pledges. The balance of cash on hand as of 12/31/20 totaled $2,424,549, including $661,602 in unrestricted funds available to meet general expenditures over the next twelve months.

As of 12/31/21, cash on hand totaled $2,267,781, including $510,035 of unrestricted funds available to meet general expenditures in 2022. This can be seen on our website where we have posted a side-by-side audit report for 2020 and 2021.

As for the payroll protection plan funds, we applied for and received a loan in April 2020 totaling $238,129. This enabled us to maintain payroll expenses for the church and, in particular, our daycare. These funds enabled us to keep the daycare in operation through the thick of the pandemic, which was a blessing for our children, parents and employees. We received forgiveness for the entire amount of the loan.

2021 Church Audit Report

Click here to view the report. This audit report has been approved by the Finance Committee and approval by the Administrative Board is expected at the next board meeting. 

A Letter from the Administrative Board

This letter is the recommendation of action from the Administrative Board. Click here to read the letter.

THE PROCESS

In January of 2021, the Administrative Board established a leadership team to explore our relationship with our denomination. After months of meetings, with denominational and other church leaders, including Bishop Gary Mueller and District Superintendent John Fleming, progressive and traditional pastors, the leadership team recommended to the Administrative Board to have two town halls to educate our congregation on the issues and to take a straw poll to reveal the desires of our congregation with regard to remaining in the UMC. The Administrative Board approved this recommendation. On December 5, 2021, our church held a straw poll of professing members present at the second town hall meeting. The results of that poll are below.

STRAW POLL

I would like our church to…
____ remain in a more progressive post – separation UMC.
____ depart and join a more traditional Methodist community
RESULTS
Total Votes: 356
Votes to Remain: 48 (13.5%), Votes to Depart: 289 (81.2%), Abstentions: 19 (5.3%)

On March 3, 2022, the Commission on the General Conference announced that General Conference scheduled for the fall of 2022 would not be held. The next General Conference is scheduled for 2024. Therefore, the Protocol of Separation cannot even be considered until 2024.

On March 20, 2022, we received the Principles Regarding Local Church Requests for Disaffiliation Ratified by the Arkansas Annual Conference June 4, 2021, from Bishop Mueller (hereinafter referred to as the “Principles” document). This “Principles” document sets out the process for local churches to leave the UMC through disaffiliation.

PURSUING THE "SPIRIT OF THE PROTOCOL" THROUGH DISAFFILIATION AS SET FORTH IN THE "PRINCIPLES" DOCUMENT

On March 27, 2022, our Leadership Team met and voted thirteen to one to recommend to begin the process of disaffiliation. Our Administrative Board met and overwhelmingly voted to begin the process of disaffiliation as set forth in the “Principles” document. This process will include listening sessions and a church wide vote. Accordingly, a letter regarding our intention to begin the disaffiliation process was sent to Bishop Mueller and District Superintendent John Fleming on March 27, 2022. A section of this letter reads as follows:

“We rely on the reasons set forth in paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline as the basis of disaffiliation. As you know, the Judicial Council issued Decision No. 1422 which provided that a Conference may not question for, “reasons of conscience” its decision concerning disaffiliation. Accordingly, there should be no need for further inquiry into the actions or inactions that support our certification. Nonetheless, should an explanation be required we offer the following in support of our request for disaffiliation: Although the “Traditional Plan” emerged victorious at the last General Conference, many annual conferences in the United States have failed to follow it. They have failed to follow the Book of Discipline regarding issues of human sexuality. We believe these actions and inactions are inconsistent with scripture and with Church law.”

Please click here to see the entire letter re: Disaffiliation of First United Methodist Church, Jonesboro.

The “Principles” document requires a process of discernment for a minimum of three months. It also provides for three listening sessions, affirmation of disaffiliation by two-thirds majority of professing members of our church, and the preparation of a Disaffiliation Agreement between the Arkansas Conference and the local church trustees. The “Principles” document also states that a simple majority approval vote by Annual Conference is necessary to ratify the motion for disaffiliation. Please take a look at the 3 page “Principles” document for a complete description.

On March 27, 2022, the Administrative Board created a committee to oversee the smooth transition regarding the process of disaffiliation. Members of the congregation are invited to contact members of the Advisory Committee (click here) with questions or feedback concerning the listening sessions.

TIME LINE FOLLOWING NOTIFICATION OF INTENT TO DISAFFILIATE

April 1
The District Superintendent sent an email to our church acknowledging receipt of our email and letter of intention dated March 29, 2022.

April 8
The District Superintendent emailed our church the following:
(1) A letter to our church leaders to notify us that the three month discernment period started on March 29th and included discussion concerning disaffiliation;
(2) a copy of the Book of Discipline paragraph 2553 (expires December 2023), and
(3) Principles Regarding Local Church Requests for Disaffiliation Ratified by the Arkansas Annual Conference June 4, 2021.

April 12
The Center for Communication for Arkansas UMC sent an email containing a video from Bishop Mueller, a slide show with a script, a FAQ sheet, and a closing prayer. (Click here to access the link.) The FAQ sheet has a total of nineteen questions and answers. The first question and answer reads as follows:

“1. Why is there suddenly so much talk about division in the United Methodist Church? What are the reasons that have led to it happening?
● It may seem sudden, but the United Methodist Church has been building towards this moment for 50 years because of significant differences related to the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons in the life of the United Methodist Church.
● The recent cancellation of the rescheduled 2020 General Conference means neither the agreed-upon separation agreement entitled “Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” that had been negotiated to provide an easy and orderly exit for traditionalists nor any other plan that might be adopted can be implemented until after the 2024 General Conference. With the announced May 1 formation of the Global Methodist Church, some congregations are unwilling to wait any longer to exit the denomination.
● While the presenting issue is whether homosexuality is compatible with Christian teaching, and LGBTQIA+ individuals should be married or ordained, the underlying issue revolves around the interpretation of Scripture, theological differences and concerns about the enforcement of The Book of Discipline.

(Emphasis added)

Click here for the full FAQ sheet

April 12
The “Principles” document sets forth the formula for calculating the costs for local churches to disaffiliate. The formula proposed indicates churches must be current on apportionments (conference tithe) and pay one additional year of apportionments (conference tithe) along with the church’s pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the Annual Conference.

Our current annual apportionment (church tithe estimate) is $238,411.00.

Calculations provided by the conference on April 12, 2022 indicated our church’s portion of the aggregate unfunded pension obligation is $1,036,833.92.

Calculations provided by the conference in November of 2021 indicated our church’s portion of the aggregate unfunded pension obligation to only be $493,162.15.

We are currently waiting for further clarification regarding the $543,671.77difference in these calculations regarding unfunded pension obligation.

April 29
The District Superintendent emailed a letter to be mailed from our church to the congregation. This letter informs our church that Bishop Mueller and District Superintendent Fleming will present at the first listening session on May 15th. This letter was mailed to our church members on May 5, 2022. To read this letter in its entirety, please click on this link. District Superintendent Fleming also emailed our church an “initial response letter”. This letter is being sent to all churches seeking disaffiliation.

May 1
The Global United Methodist Church officially launched. To view the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline, the beliefs and governance, and other information on the Global Methodist Church visit this link.

May 5
We received a text message from Bishop Mueller containing a new calculation from the Arkansas UMC indicating that our church’s portion of the aggregate unfunded pension obligation to be $399,574.54.

May 14
Tod Burris from the ARUMC emailed the revised estimate liability calculation for Jonesboro First. This calculation indicates our church’s portion of the aggregate unfunded pension obligation to be $399,574.54.

May 15
The first “listening session” will occur at 5:00 in Wesley Hall. Bishop Mueller will be speaking and our District Superintendent John Fleming will present. The
“Principles” document requires attendance to be taken and a report to be prepared for each listening session.

First Church was asked to provide the following documents at the listening session: the Exit Liability Calculation provided on May 14, a Disaffiliation FAQ sheet, and the Major Steps in the ¶2553 Disaffiliation Process.

Watch the first listening session by clicking here.

May 23
The second listening session is scheduled at 6:00 p.m. in Wesley Hall.

Our second listening session will include a discussion comparing the options of remaining in the UMC and joining the GMC. A speaker representing each option will give a presentation. An opportunity for the audience to ask questions will follow. Katie Pearce, pastor of FUMC Batesville, will speak on remaining in the UMC. Jeff Warrick, pastor of the Journey – United Methodist Congregation in Cabot, will speak on joining the GMC.

Watch the second listening session by clicking here.

June 6
A video update from Bro John. Click here to watch the video.

June 12
The third listening session is scheduled at 5:00 p.m. in Wesley Hall.

The third session is set for June 12, 2022, at 5:00 p.m.  Updates following Annual Conference will be presented.  A summary of the disaffiliation process will be discussed.  A straw poll will be taken by giving voting cards to professing members of our church who are present.

Watch the third listening session by clicking here.

To-Remain

July 31 – Special Church Conference
Following completion of the listening sessions, a Church Conference will be held and professing members who are physically present will be able to vote on the future of our church. The vote must pass with a two-thirds majority in order for the church to disaffiliate.

November 21 – Special Session of the Arkansas Annual Conference
This specially called conference will allow for a conference vote to release those churches that have completed the process for disaffiliation under paragraph 2553 in the UMC Discipline.

GLOBAL METHODIST CHURCH

Overwhelming feedback from members of our congregation indicates a preference to be a part of a Traditional Methodist Church. The Global Methodist Church launched May 1, 2022, and offers fundamentally the same doctrine we have historically followed as United Methodists, but does not require a trust clause. The Global Methodist Church also allows for greater freedom in clergy selection, as well as lower apportionment payments.

Below you will find basic information about the Global Methodist Church with links you can follow to better understand the way it will function. 

ARTICLES ABOUT THE GMC

QUICK LINKS FOR INFORMATION ON THE GLOBAL METHODIST CHURCH

Stay UMC Information

The following is below: the Facebook contact information for fellow members of our congregation who want our church to remain United Methodist, a video of Bishop Mueller’s presentation to our church on the issue of disaffiliation, and information from the Arkansas Conference of the UMC.