AN EIGHT-MONTH DISCERNMENT PROCESS:
Our churches informed the New England Annual Conference that we had begun an 8-month discernment process by sending a letter on September 26th. This date was chosen for its historical significance. It is the 232nd anniversary of the first Methodist meeting in New England.
Over the next eight months we will have the following educational meetings, which will be used to create our “statement articulating [our] theological and missional foundations in seeking disaffiliation for reasons of conscience ‘related to human sexuality’” (as required by Resolution 211 passed by the New England Annual Conference in June). The educational sessions will be designed and led by our pastor, in consultation with other churches going through this process. In addition to attending and participating, members of our church community will be asked to assist in preparing for these sessions.
Session 1. October 2019 – Understanding the structure and organization of the United Methodist Church (bringing people up to speed on the system we are currently a part of)
1. Use descriptors: INTERNATIONAL General Conference and NEW ENGLAND Annual Conference to help differentiate between the two.
2. Discernment and disaffiliate are confusing. Define "discernment." Use "separate" instead of "disaffiliate."
3. Close with hopeful, empowering affirmations like:
Our local church is not being taken from us.
We are going to keep doing what we're doing, and be true to our values.
We are not going to surrender our values or abandon our local ministry.
We are going to decide whether to continue doing what we do within the UMC or separate from the UMC.
Session 2. November 2019 – The Methodist Movement (What has it historically meant to be a Methodist? What does it mean for us today and into the future? What about Wesleyan Christianity is important to us in our local church setting? What do we want to affirm and nurture about this tradition in our future?)
Session 3. December 2019 – An Intersectional Analysis of Oppression and Liberation within our Church and World (How have LGBTQ people, People of Color, women, disabled people, people who are poor, and other marginalized groups of people been oppressed within our church and by other social forces? How is understanding and resisting such oppression related to the good news of Jesus Christ? For this session we will draw on the work of UM-Forward, specifically, “Loved and Liberated: A Proclamation from Our Movement Forward Summit.”)
Session 4. January 2020 – Role of clergy: What options are available to churches that choose to disaffiliate with the UMC in terms of clergy? Will credentialed United Methodist clergy continue to serve? Who will serve as clergy? Are there clergy who are prepared to serve in this way?
Session 5. February 2020 – Reporting from Conference groups. Resolution 211 requires churches in this discernment process be in communication with several Conference bodies including the Trustees, Board of Congregational and Community Development, Treasurer and Chancellor. What do we have to report back from this process?
Session 6. March 2020 – Financial obligations and options -- What have we learned from our Conference Benefits Officer, Treasurer, Trustees and from our own research about options for fulfilling the requirements of paragraph 2553 of the Discipline? How shall we proceed?
Session 7. April 2020 – General Conference Part 1 -- What are possible outcomes of next month's General Conference? What outcomes should we be prepared for?
Session 8. May 2020 – General Conference Part 2 -- What happened at General Conference? How does this impact our work?
In order to make the best use of our time, four of these meetings will be split between educational content listed above and “listening sessions”, to be overseen by the District Superintendent or her/his appointee. For example, sessions 2, 4, 6, and 8 could have a half-hour for educational content and an hour for a “listening session”. This schedule will depend in part on close coordination with the District Superintendent.
In early 2020, the congregation, either the Executive Council or Administrative Council will need to make a decision regarding the preparation of a “statement articulating… theological and missional foundations for seeking disaffiliation.” We do not have timeline or process for meeting that requirement. The reason for not spelling the process out in detail at this point, is that we do not know what will develop or what we will learn. We will need to adapt creatively to what we are learning.
The discernment process has no official end date at this point. We are not committing ourselves to making a decision in 8 months. Any further action toward disaffiliation, including an official vote, will be done according to the procedure set out Book of Discipline Paragraph 2553 and in Resolution 211 or some other procedure enacted by the International General Conference and/or New England Annual Conference.
Related Resources: (click titles)
Handout: graphic for Session 1
Video for Session 2 - Life of John Wesley
Slides for Session 2: thearda.com/timeline/tlDenom.asp
Video for Session 3 -
Above are links to sections of a PowerPoint presentation that can be combined and/or edited to suit your situation. These files can also be opened and manipulated using Google Slides.