The United Methodist Denomination is facing a challenging time as it wrestles with God's word and how we deal with the issue of human sexuality. As a church we have sought God's guidance in our next steps. Here we provide information and updates about the disaffiliation process to our church family.
The Process Team has reviewed the survey responses and has provided the analysis of those responses to the Admin Council with a formal recommendation in regards to Discernment.
Leading the discernment process as approved by Admin Council, the process requires discerning the answer to a core question. The core responsibility of the Process Team was to find a pathway that results in the strongest viable church to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (regardless of denominational affiliation).
The Texas Annual Conference requires a period of discernment for churches seriously considering disaffiliation. Based on the survey results as outlined above, a major majority of our LCUMC congregation (74%) responded that at this time they choose to stay part of the United Methodist Denomination. We believe that continuing the discernment process could have a greater negative impact on the mission and relationships of LCUMC because there is not sufficient evidence that outweigh the cost of disaffiliation. The recommendation of the Process Team is that we discontinue the discernment process because the survey results show the congregation is not seriously considering disaffiliation.
Based on the results, it is likely that this decision may cause hurt feelings and separation for some members of our church. League City United Methodist Church will continue to operate with the same mission that is has from the beginning, Worshiping, Sharing, Serving, and Winning Disciples for Christ. Part of the survey asked what the congregation wanted more information on overall. Pastor Peter, Rev. Phillips, and the Process Team will continue to work to ensure those are covered through bible studies, small group discussion, etc. Your Process Team will also continue to keep our communications channels open for questions and concerns.
LCUMC Process Team
Pastor Peter Cammarano defines disaffiliation and talks about the mechanics of an actual vote for disaffiliation. Peter also discusses what would happen following a vote to disaffiliate.
At this time, LCUMC is not in a period of disaffiliation.
LCUMC's Admin Council met last night, 8/17/22, and decided to begin a process of discernment. They named an ad hoc committee for the purpose of drafting an 'appropriate' discernment process.
Pastor Peter answers the question, Will the United Methodist Church really change their core beliefs about Jesus in the near future? The answer is no. Pastor Peter talks about where those beliefs are stated and how they are virtually impossible to change.
The United Methodist Church is governed by the Book of Discipline. The debate in the UMC regarding schism/disaffiliation centers around human sexuality and the UMC stance on human sexuality as stated in the Book of Discipline. Among the statements in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality are these two:
Human sexuality has been a topic of discussion and debate in the United Methodist Church for quite some time (since 1972) and came to the forefront at the 2019 Special General Conference. That special conference debated changes to the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality. Ultimately the “Traditional Plan” was approved and, in relation to human sexuality, the Book of Discipline was not amended or changed.
However, this did not settle the debate and on-going discussion as well as adherence to the Book of Discipline in some extreme cases (none in the Texas Annual Conference). The 2019 Special General Conference did approve a new section, ¶2553, related to church disaffiliation from UMC. In short, ¶2553 requires a discernment period, and “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.” Under ¶2553 a church must pay 2 years of apportionment (previous year and current year) as well as any unfunded pension liability (currently $0 in the Texas Annual Conference due to current market factors with the figure updated every quarter). Also, under ¶2553 a church retains its property (and debts) upon disaffiliation from the UMC. ¶2553 expires on 31 December 2023 and note that ¶2553 is not recorded in the on-line Book of Discipline linked above as it was added in 2019.
What about the future?
Following the 2019 Special General Conference, much debate continued, and the issue was likely to be retabled at the 2020 regular General Conference. However, with COVID the 2020 General Conference was deferred multiple times and will now occur in 2024, after the expiration of ¶2553. Prior to the 2020 General Conference postponement, a “Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation” was drafted and recommended by a diverse group of leaders across UMC worldwide. This protocol “offered a proposal that would preserve The United Methodist Church while allowing traditionalist-minded congregations to form a new denomination. [...] The plan looks toward a restructuring of the remaining global United Methodist Church into regions, with flexibility to adapt church policies, including on LGBTQ inclusion.”
It is not clear if this protocol retains the support of the General Conference majority, however, it is clear that as of today ¶2553 will expire prior to the next General Conference resulting in a quagmire with regards to church disaffiliation.
In addition, the “new denomination” referenced in the protocol was officially chartered in April 2022, the Global Methodist Church or GMC. While the GMC is rooted in the traditionalist view of Christianity related to human sexuality, there are many similarities between UMC and GMC.
Where does that leave us? Why all the fuss now?
Many have said that “clearly the UMC is moving more progressive,” however, such formal move would come in the form of change(s) to the Book of Discipline which can only happen via vote at a General Conference. The worldwide nature of the UMC’s General Conference voting makes it challenging for changes to occur quickly; changes regarding our doctrine of human sexuality may take years or decades, if they happen at all.
The fuss, and sense of urgency from some, comes from the expiration of ¶2553 and associated uncertainty in the future related to changes to the Book of Discipline related to human sexuality contrasted with the formation of the GMC and the GMC’s firm stance on human sexuality.
The Annual Conference must approve a church’s request to disaffiliate under ¶2553. There are two upcoming Texas Annual Conferences that could approve such disaffiliation requests, a special Annual Conference in December 2022 and the regular Annual Conference in May 2023. As it stands today, after the regular Annual Conference session in May 2023 there isn’t a path for a church in the Texas Annual Conference to disaffiliate from UMC under ¶2553.
What are the pathways ahead?
Reasonable pathways would seem to be:
a. A church discerns to remain in the UMC.
b. A church discerns to disaffiliate with UMC leaving multiple options:
i. Go independent (lots of open ends/risk…
tax liability, clergy, establishment, etc.)
ii. Go to another denomination, Methodist or otherwise
iii. Joining GMC
No, nothing must be decided now. There is some concern because par. 2553 on disaffiliation, expires at the end of 2023, but the General Conference will meet in 2024 and will re-establish methods for disaffiliation.
Texas Annual Conference disaffiliation policy is set by the conference's Board of Trustees, not by the bishop. A new bishop would not have the unilateral ability to change the terms of disaffiliation.
Both churches currently have the same understanding of Christian marriage. The Global Methodist Church and United Methodist Church differ on some key Wesleyan theology, particularly around grace. The United Methodist Church sees itself deliberately as a “big tent” where diversity is valued, whereas the Global Methodist Church places a higher value on doctrinal conformity with greater enforcement mechanisms around doctrine, denominational rules, and the payment of apportionments.
Yes and no. The Global Methodist Church officially founded as an organization on May 1, 2022 but currently has no churches. At the moment, they are operating under provisional rules, and their official Book of Doctrines and Discipline will not be in place for another 12–18 months, when they have their convening conference.
No. Former United Methodist churches have disaffiliated to join the Free Methodist Church or the United Church of Christ. Others have gone independent.
The United Methodist Church will continue to be a denomination with traditionalists, centrists, and progressives. Its position on human sexuality remains under the traditionalist plan passed at General Conference 2019 and cannot be modified until GC 2024. Even then, it is unclear what our policies will allow or what modifications would be approved in a vote at that time. Diversity of theological perspective remains a thriving aspect of our life together as United Methodists, however the main tenets of Methodism will remain unchanged. Deciding to join the Global Methodist Church is about more than just whether you are a traditionalist.
Nothing has changed in the United Methodist Church in the past few months and cannot change until 2024, at the earliest. Also, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will remain a diverse decision-making body with many perspectives—traditionalist, centrist, and progressive—influencing any changes. There are some in leadership roles (pastors, superintendents, bishops) that have opinions and take actions (or are perceived to do so) that are "outside the lines", but these examples are not representative of the overall United Methodist denomination, and it remains to be seen if the vote to change the Book of Discipline will be swayed in either direction.
No. Church Trustees committees set wedding policies. Pastors always have the ability to choose which weddings they will officiate. Bishops have no desire to hurt a church or a pastor by appointing someone who would not be received well. This has been true for women clergy and clergy of color for decades.
Our Articles of Religion and our Doctrinal Standards that have been in place since Methodism began will remain unchanged in the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church can never revoke or alter its Articles of Religion or Confession of Faith. You can find these in the Book of Discipline, along with our Doctrinal History and Standards, in paragraphs 102–105. If anyone infers that these aspects of our church will change, they are incorrect.
If you are new to all this, there are excellent online resources for exploring Methodist spirituality, beliefs, missions, and structure. Check out the official website of The United Methodist Church and its articles on what we believe and how we are structured.
There are also resources at United Methodist Communications, including basics on United Methodism and a primer on what General Conference is and how it works.