WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Three Future Options

First Methodist Alvin joins more than 100 congregations in the Texas Annual Conference in discerning a new future outside The United Methodist Church. Each church must choose a discernment pathway that best reflects its theological beliefs, core values and Christian mission in the world. Other key factors for consideration include matters of business formation, finance, clergy benefits, pensions and credentials, and property.

At First Methodist, the discernment study group is comprised of Pastor Wesley and Pastor Kenny, the Leadership Board, plus additional members of the church to form a Discernment Task Force.

Option 1: Stay in connection with The United Methodist Church

Taking a “wait and see” approach and remaining a congregation associated with The United Methodist Church follows conventional wisdom for maintaining the status quo, but, in fact, this pathway may lead to a very different version of the UMC compared to the organization’s established profile from previous decades.

The continuing United Methodist Church or, as some are calling it, the post-separation UMC (psUMC) will not maintain the status quo. The Council of Bishops, academic leaders and some clergy are moving to adopt more progressive agendas and carry the authority to create an uncomfortable climate for pastors and churches that are slow or resistant to change.

Presiding Bishop of the Texas Annual Conference, Scott Jones, will retire at the end of 2022, and a new bishop will be appointed in his place. It is likely the new bishop will bring more progressive perspectives and practices to the Conference. Possible outcomes to this change in leadership include the reappointment of pastors, revision to Conference-wide and local church ministry focus and revision to existing terms for churches seeking to disaffiliate from the denomination in 2023. Higher apportionments are also expected for churches in the continuing Texas Annual Conference, as fewer congregations will have to share in operating expenses of the Conference following the widespread departure of churches in 2022.

Option 2: Affiliate with another Methodist denomination

Membership and worship attendance in the greater United Methodist Church have declined nearly every year since its inception in 1968. Because of this trend, much attention has been placed on the need for renewal on a denominational scale.

As traditionalists look to other conservative expressions of Methodism, there is a desire to retain the classic Wesleyan model of congregational connectionalism — that is, moving together in the direction of growth and renewal not as individual churches but as a network of churches that are theologically and socially aligned.

The discernment team at First Methodist recognizes the value in the maintaining the connectional model for the purposes of upholding its historic, Wesleyan tradition and for laying the groundwork for future growth and vitality that only comes in shared community.

Currently there are two Methodist denominations that offer First Methodist viable opportunities for connection, renewal and revival in the future: the Free Methodist Church USA and the Global Methodist Church.

The Global Methodist Church

Launched on May 1, 2022, the Global Methodist Church (GMC) is the new expression of traditional theology and now serves as an alternative to the continuing United Methodist Church / post-separation UMC (psUMC). The GMC is the result of a multi-year collaboration of The Wesley Covenant Association, Good News, the Confessing Movement and other conservative stakeholders within the UMC.

As a new denomination, the GMC’s structure and administration is early in development. It is led by a 17-member Transitional Leadership Council representing congregations and clergy in the United States, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and Africa. Its inaugural general conference is set to convene 12-18 months from now.
The GMC model is being created with a leaner organizational structure, giving more autonomy and authority to local congregations while maintaining strong cross-connectional ties.

The GMC is on record as upholding and enforcing the current Book of Discipline regarding marriage and human sexuality, as well as a pro-life stance except in tragic conflicts of life against life. It offers new members relief from the UMC property trust clause and no guaranteed appointments for clergy.

The Free Methodist Church

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Free Methodist Church USA is a small denomination with shared roots dating back to the Methodist revival in England during the 18th century.
Today, the Free Methodist Church is comprised of only about 68,000 members in approximately 850 churches across the United States. By design, the denomination offers very little governance at the national level to place emphasis and energy in the local church. Several articles have been published on the denomination’s website offering information to UMC churches that are discerning possible affiliation.

The church offers five values it calls the Free Methodist Way, which serve as points of unique distinction from other Wesleyan denominations:
  • Life-Giving Holiness: God’s call on holiness was never meant to be a burden, but a gift that liberates us for life that is truly life by delivering us from the destructive power of sin.
  • Love-Driven Justice: Love is the way we demonstrate God’s heart for justice, by valuing the image of God in all men, women and children, acting with compassion toward the oppressed, resisting oppression, and stewarding Creation.
  • Christ-Compelled Multiplication: The Gospel of Christ — the message He proclaimed, the life He lived, and the ministry He modeled — set into motion a redemptive movement destined to fill the whole earth.
  • Cross-Cultural Collaboration: From the beginning, God’s intent was to have a people from every nation, culture and ethnicity, united in Christ and commissioned to carry out His work in the world.
  • God-Given Revelation: We hold unwaveringly to our conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.

Option 3: Become an independent church

Becoming an independent congregation carries a different set of considerations compared to affiliating with another Methodist denomination.

There are financial and legal distinctions, and in some cases, they are more favorable, such as freedom from paying apportionments to a parent denomination.

With freedom comes more organizational responsibility and risk (for example, maintaining all provisions for clergy benefits and retirement independently, versus the UMC-sponsored plans available through Wespath).

Securing independence from The United Methodist Church means relief from theological and social misalignment of past decades, as well as the ineffective and outdated oversight model. However, this relief comes at the expense of any official connection with likeminded clergy and congregations. Informal, ad hoc alliances may form among UMC congregations that part ways with the UMC and aren’t ready to affiliate with a different denomination.

Assuming the independent model, the creation of additional structure should be considered in order to maintain a healthy culture of transparency and accountability throughout the organization.