HOW DID WE GET HERE?

A Brief Overview

The United Methodist Church has never been truly united. For decades, church leaders have been distracted and depleted by disagreement regarding Christology, biblical authority and interpretation, sexual ethics, and the definition of marriage. Where practices deviated from church doctrine as outlined in the Book of Discipline, the denomination has suffered from a lack of accountability and enforcement.

Today there is widespread agreement that separation is the best and final way to resolve the deep divisions. By parting ways, each wing of the denomination — progressive and traditional — is free to continue in ministry without the lingering burden of these matters.

The continuing United Methodist Church or, as some are calling it, the post-separation UMC (psUMC) will move in a more progressive direction, not in the political sense but in its Christian beliefs and in its practice of those beliefs.

The traditional branch of the current denomination will need to change to stay the same. That is, pastors and congregations that uphold traditional Christian beliefs will be more successful in preserving them by leaving The United Methodist Church.

In the absence of clear guidelines for consistent and fair separation due to the postponement of the UMC General Conference in 2024, each Annual Conference, led by its presiding bishop, was tasked with setting its own parameters for parting ways at the local church level. The resulting outcomes of this arrangement vary greatly — from favorable to onerous — depending on the episcopal leadership of each annual conference.

In some annual conferences, churches are being required to pay 25%-50% of the total value of their property and assets in addition to standard required apportionments and unfunded pension liabilities. In other conferences, bishops and district superintendents are not publicly disclosing their exit terms or requiring extended periods of discernment.
In contrast, clear and reasonable terms have been created and published by Bishop Scott Jones and his cabinet and staff in the Texas Annual Conference. In August 2020, the Texas Annual Conference approved the Principles Regarding Local Church Requests for Disaffiliation. This document outlines seven steps a local church needs to take in order to leave the denomination.

While some churches are following the prescribed steps for leaving the denomination, others are choosing to define their own exit terms and are risking litigation from their annual conference. Many churches are engaged in lawsuits following this approach. At Texas Annual Conference at the end of May 2022, Bishop Jones recommended all churches considering entering discernment with enough time to prepare for a special-called session of the Conference to ratify disaffiliations later this year.

On June 14, 2022, the Leadership Board of First Methodist Alvin voted to join more than 100 congregations in the Texas Annual Conference in a period of official discernment for following one of three pathways:

  • Remain in connection with the UMC
  • Disaffiliate from the UMC and affiliate with a new or different Methodist denomination
  • Become an independent church congregation

What are the steps to determining a way forward for this congregation? First Methodist Alvin is working with a large study group comprised of the clergy, members of the leadership board, and others asked to be on the Denominational Task Force.  Together, they are taking a calm and ordered project approach. A complete recommendation for the best way forward will be presented to the congregation when the study is complete.