In December of 2019 a group of United Methodist leaders gathered under the direction of a trained mediator to attempt to find a solution to the impasse over human sexuality. The church had been struggling with this and other issues for 50 years. The special General Conference in 2019 revealed the deep and intractable divide the church faced.
At the 2019 General Conference, the Bishops proposed a solution to this impasse. The General Conference defeated the bishop’s proposal and instead passed what is called the Traditional Plan to continue to define marriage in terms of heterosexual monogamy and prohibit same-sex marriage and ordination.
2019 General Conference recap HERE
While this seemed to be a solution, many bishops and regions, especially in the US, promised to defy this denomination decision. Traditional leaders recognized that in most of the country the de facto reality was the traditional plan was unenforceable. Progressive leaders wanted to remove the prohibition of same-sex marriage and ordination. Traditionalist leaders wanted to be in a denomination that enforced what they said they believed. This led to the meeting in December of 2019 that reached a compromise called, “Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation”
Protocol of separation document HERE
In Summary, The Protocol of Separation would allow traditionalist and more progressive congregations and Annual Conferences to form new denominations. Churches could join the new denomination by a simple majority vote of members present at a called Church Conference. Annual Conferences would need a supermajority of 57% to depart and join the new denomination. It is assumed that once the traditional churches departed, the post-separation United Methodist church would remove all prohibitions against LBGTQIA ordination and marriage. It is expected that the Protocol of Separation will be approved at the General Conference (August 29-September 6, 2022).
First United Methodist Church Jonesboro has a decision to make some time in the next 18 months. We have three options.
- We can remain in the more progressive post separation United Methodist Church.
Article for staying in the UMC HERE
- We can join the new more traditional Global Methodist Church that is presently being formed in preparation for General Conference 2022.
Description of the Global Methodist Church HERE
Chart comparing UMC to the Global Methodist Church HERE
- We can choose to disaffiliate and chart our own path and associations.
The disaffiliation option is new. At the General Conference 2019, a new paragraph was added to the Discipline. It allows churches to depart the denomination after careful deliberation and a 2/3 vote of those present at all called church conferences. The church would need to pay 2 years of apportionments and make a one-time payment to the United Methodist pension fund to support retired UMC pastors.
Disaffiliation paragraph HERE
This disaffiliation paragraph allows a church to depart the denomination with possession of their property. In the United Methodist Church, there is a legal agreement called, “The Trust Clause”. The Trust Clause states that all United Methodist Churches are held in Trust for the Annual Conference. In other words, while the church manages the property and uses it for ministry, the Annual Conference owns all the assets and property of a local United Methodist Church.
Because the disaffiliation process is new, Bishops and Annual Conferences have varied in their interpretations of the requirements. The above requirements might not be all that is required for our church if we chose the disaffiliation route.
Trust Clause description HERE
It might appear that our three choices are straightforward. Unfortunately, there is a good bit of uncertainty facing our church. Obviously, the delay of General Conference due to Covid-19 is the biggest factor in that uncertainty. No one is sure General Conference will be able to meet even in 2022. In the meantime, events are occurring around the country that are real causes for concern. One especially troubling development was a proposal by the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Annual Conference. The Trustees proposed that any local congregation that disaffiliates must pay a minimum of 10% (up to 100%) of its appraised value in property and assets to the Annual Conference before it departs. This is a significant addition to the already expensive payment for apportionments and pension. This proposal was narrowly defeated, but it could easily be reintroduced in the coming years. This penalty would have been very costly for a local church; especially one like ours, if we chose that option.
In January of 2021, the Administrative Board of FUMC Jonesboro authorized the Nominations Committee to select 15 church leaders who were charged with helping us choose a path between these three options. The leadership team is currently meeting. In the coming weeks, they will be interviewing various representatives of these three options as well as our District Superintendent. Our leadership team is made up of active members of our church representing the various ministries of our church.
2021 Leadership Team Members:
- Mary Baker
- Lynn Bruner
- Marsha Carwell
- John Cook
- Marvin Day
- Paula Fulkerson
- Brian Graf
- Chris James (Chair)
- Cory Meadors
- Jake Morse
- Ray Osment
- Sharon Phillips
- Rick Rorex
- Megan Smith
- Janea Spades
Your leadership team is diligently working and praying to find the right solution for our church. We plan to have town hall meetings after we have done our own homework by studying our three options. We would also like to hear from you. What questions do you have for your leadership team? What are your observations about our process or our options? Your questions and observations will help us as we work for the right option to present to the church.