The Path Forward

Page updated 10/5/22

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only and represents a good faith effort by the MMUMC Path Forward Task Force to educate and inform our congregation on the full range of perspectives regarding the current issues facing the UMC and their impact on the future of our church.  The inclusion of any links herein does not imply a recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them by the Path Forward Task Force, and we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness or factual accuracy of any opinions/information presented.  We encourage the congregation to prayerfully consider all information disseminated, independently verify any information upon which you rely, and seek out truthful information on your own such that if the time comes, you will be able to make a decision on disaffiliation or not based upon your own informed heart and mind. 

Three Phases within The Path Forward with Key Dates

Phase 1: Introduction

8/14/22
Church Council Meeting
Venue: Sanctuary
Time: 6:30 pm

8/21/22

Forum with 2 presentations – 45 min each
Venue: Sanctuary
Time: 6-8 pm

  • Managed and moderated Q&A from questions submitted on website or through written cards
  • Informational handouts from each perspective will be printed and available to each attendee
  • This event will be recorded and live streamed
  • Website will be updated after this meeting is over and the tech team has had time to post the recording and upload any additional information

Phase 2: Education

*The following events are stand alone and serve a specific purpose – they are NOT duplicative.

9/18/22
Theological Issues
Venue: Sanctuary
Time: 6-8 pm

  • Presentations from Rev. Dr. Alice Rogers and Rev. Glenn Hannigan
  • Designed to address theological issues raised through disaffiliation discussions
  • Managed and moderated Q&A from questions submitted on website or through written cards
  • This event will be recorded and live streamed
  • Website will be updated after this meeting is over and the tech team has had time to post the recording and upload any additional information

10/02/22 
What is Disaffiliation, Why Now and Practical Implications?

  • Designed to address logistical and practical considerations surrounding the decision to remain UMC or disaffiliate

10/02/22 – 10/16/22 
Congregation Survey

  • Designed to properly inform Church Council with feedback from the congregation on numerous topics
  • Paper and online version

10/1/22 – 11/23/22

Scheduled Updates and Special Events

11/24/22 – 12/31/22

Advent and Christmas Season of Prayer

1/1/23 – 2/28/23

Continued Education

Phase 3: Call to Action

10/23/22
  • Following education and the presentation of survey results by the Task Force, Church Council will meet to determine next steps in our Path Forward. Specifically, the Church Council will be deciding whether or not McEachern UMC will submit a formal request to the District Superintendent that she conduct a church conference wherein the membership of the church shall be given an opportunity to vote on disaffiliation from the UMC.
1/1/23 – 2/28/23
  • Per the guidelines set forth by the North Georgia Conference, such a request shall be made by the Church Council, if at all, between January 1, 2023 and February 28, 2023.
3/1/23
  • The District Superintendent shall begin the process of scheduling church conferences for those churches requesting a conference on disaffiliation, set to ensure completion and efficiency (not based on when a request is made). If requested, McEachern’s Church Conference on disaffiliation will occur some time after this date. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.

FAQ

Background: For the past 50 years the United Methodist Church has been discussing the subject of Human Sexuality. The current Book of Discipline (2016) states that, “All people are of sacred worth but that we consider the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching.”
In addition, the Book of Discipline forbids ordination of practicing self avowed homosexuals and forbids clergy from performing same sex marriages and same sex marriages from taking place in United Methodist Churches.

In 2019 a called special session of General Conference was held in St. Louis to settle the issue. The General Conference (governing body of the United Methodist Church) approved a Traditional plan which kept the Book of Discipline’s the same and did not change the position of the UMC. It also approved a way for churches to disaffiliate from the UMC, paragraph 2553.

But, this did not resolve the debate over the issue of Human Sexuality in the UMC. The argument to change the Book of Discipline towards full inclusion of LGBTQ persons including ordination and marriage in the church by UM clergy continues. Many, including our Bishop, think this will happen at either General Conference 2024 or 2028. The discussion continues.

1. What is the decision McEachern is facing?

McEachern is facing the decision of whether to stay in the United Methodist Church or disaffiliate (leave) the United Methodist Church. Many UMC congregations are not considering or debating the issue -they have simply chosen to stay in the UMC. McEachern has chosen to explore the issue and prayerfully discern what the congregation will do.

2. What is disaffiliation?

Disaffiliation is a process described in paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline that allows a congregation to leave the UMC with all of its property and resources under very limited circumstances, namely: “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or by the actions or inactions of its Annual Conference related to these issues which follow.” The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with the UMC must be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023 when the provisions of par. 2553 are set to expire.

3. For churches considering the possibility of disaffiliation, what is the process that will be used in our Annual Conference?

The overall framework for disaffiliation is found in par. 2553. You can find that document here. The process is as follows:

a) The Church Council must vote by simple majority of members of the Council present at a duly called meeting of the Council to request a Called Church Conference for the purpose of considering the question of staying UMC or disaffiliating. If the Church Council decides not to request a called Church Conference, then the process to disaffiliate ends and the church remains in the UMC.
b) If the Council requests the Church Conference, the request must be submitted to the District Superintendent between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28, 2023.
c) The Church Conference date will be set by the District Superintendent sometime after March 1, 2023.
d) At the Church Conference, a vote will be taken. The vote will be by members of the church and they must be present to vote. There are no proxy votes or mail in votes or Zoom votes. In order for disaffiliation to be approved, at the duly called Church Conference 2/3 of the members present must vote in favor of disaffiliation. If a church member is present and chooses to abstain from voting, this is considered a no vote against disaffiliating. If less than 2/3 vote to disaffiliate, then the disaffiliation process ends and the congregation stays in the UMC.
e) If the Church Conference vote is to disaffiliate, a simple majority of members of the Annual Conference must approve the ratify the decision at a regular or called session of the Annual Conference. The North Georgia Annual Conference is held each year in June.

4. Who are the members who can vote?

Any member of McEachern currently on our church roll can vote. We are beginning a process to try to contact inactive members to find out if they still want to be included on our membership roll. A person can only be removed from our roll if they request to be removed either verbally or in writing or if their name is presented to the annual Charge Conference as one to b removed for two consecutive years.

5. Does a United Methodist congregation have to vote?

No. If a congregation desires to remain in the UMC, no vote is necessary. Many congregations are waiting until General Conference 2024 in order to see what will happen in the UMC and how disaffiliating congregations have managed.

6. Are there costs to a congregation pursuing disaffiliation?

Yes. The actual cost is determined on the day of disaffiliation but it will include the following:

– Payment of any unpaid Conference Apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation. (currently $137,000 in process of being paid)
– Payment of one additional year of Conference Apportionments. (Additional $137,000)
– An amount equal to the local church’s pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension liability of the Annual Conference. (currently $57,000 subject to change)
– Repayment of any Annual Conference grants since 2018. (identifying these)

In addition, the church will bear any legal costs incurred in the process. There will be other incidental costs of transitioning from being a UMC congregation as well.

7. Why would the church consider disaffiliating now rather than later?

The General Conference 2019 approved a disaffiliation process for local churches to leave the UMC with all their property and resources. Since the beginning of Methodism, all churches have had within their deeds a Trust Clause which states that the land, buildings, etc are held in trust by the local church for the United Methodist Church. If the congregation ever ceased to be United Methodist, all the land, etc. reverts to the United Methodist Church.

The disaffiliation par. 2553 expires on December 31, 2023. If a church does not act prior to that time, then it will remain in the UMC.

We do not know how the UMC might change the Book of Discipline in the future. This includes whether or not there will be included a disaffiliation process included in the future.

This might be the only opportunity for a congregation to leave and remove itself from the ongoing conflict within the UMC regarding human sexuality.

8. What happens to the church records and membership records?

Upon disaffiliation, the local church is required to send a copy of all its church records and membership records to the Annual Conference while still retaining a copy for its own use.

9. If the church votes to disaffiliate, how will the church be governed?

The individual congregation will have to set up its own governance if it exists as an independent congregation. If the congregation affiliates with another denomination, then the governance of that denomination will be followed. Some churches that have already disaffiliated but have not yet joined another denomination are using the governing structure found in the 2016 Book of Discipline as it relates to the Local Church.

10. If the church votes to disaffiliate, what will happen to our Pastors and Staff?

The Staff are employees of McEachern and would not be affected by the church’s decision to leave or stay in the UMC.

The Pastors would not be able to serve McEachern if the church disaffiliates and if they continued as active United Methodist clergy. The Bishop and Cabinet have stated that even in retirement United Methodist clergy would be unable to serve any congregation that is not United Methodist. This last statement is currently being reviewed. The Pastors could serve McEachern if they give up their Ordination in the UMC and become clergy in another denomination.

11. Will the church join another denomination? And if so, which denomination?

If McEachern completes the process of disaffiliation from the UMC, then there are a number of options to explore. The congregation could remain independent or it could join another denomination. Information concerning these other denominations will be provided at a later date.

12. What happens to my membership at McEachern?

If the congregation votes to disaffiliate then your membership would remain at McEachern. If you desired to stay in a United Methodist congregation then you would have to transfer your membership to a local UMC congregation nearby.

Conversely, if the congregation decided to stay in the UMC, your membership would remain at McEachern. If you desired to leave the UMC then you would transfer your membership to a non-UMC congregation.

13. What happens with the McEachern Trust Fund?

The Trust Fund stays with McEachern whether it stays in the UMC or leaves the UMC. It is directly attached to the McEachern congregation.

14. Can a person be a member of the UMC and a congregation that is not UMC at the same time?

No. Your membership must be in one or the other.

Informational Links

Theology Resources

Recorded Meetings

X