Grace and peace to you.
In recent years there has been a lot of activity and debate in the United Methodist Church as a denomination, especially around homosexuality. I work closely with Indiana Bishop Julius Trimble and our Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Fulbright, as I chair the Indiana Conference Committee on Episcopacy. Our church rules (the Book of Discipline) are reviewed and amended by the General Conference (GC) when they meet, which is generally every four years. GC delegates are elected from every Annual Conference (like Indiana). Representatives from all over the world are comprised of equal numbers of clergy and laity. This is the only body that speaks for the United Methodist Church. The next GC is scheduled to convene in 2024.
Are churches required to vote on remaining United Methodist?
No. Churches are not required to vote to remain or discontinue (disaffiliate) to be United Methodist. The GC has never taken action that forces or invites churches to take such a vote. Our Book of Discipline (BOD) has always had provisions for congregations to disaffiliate. There always will be such provisions. The Special Called GC of 2019 established a temporary provision for disaffiliation that expires at the end of 2023. This temporarily grants permission for churches to disaffiliate and retain their buildings and grounds. There is still and always will be a financial cost for disaffiliation. Even if GC allows the 2019 provision to expire, churches may negotiate for disaffiliation while retaining their property. This practice was already occurring before 2019 in some circumstances.
Are some churches leaving the UMC? Why?
Yes. In Indiana, over twenty churches have acted to disaffiliate, and others are planning to do so. Many Indiana churches that are disaffiliating want to affirm traditional views regarding homosexuality. They anticipate the UMC eventually becoming progressive on this issue. In some parts of the country, churches are disaffiliating in protest to the current traditional rules regarding homosexuality in the BOD.
Will the General Conference act in 2024 to settle the issue of homosexuality once and for all?
Not likely. Nearly every GC since 1972 has handled motions and proposed legislation on homosexuality. No matter how GC may act in 2024, action on the issue may still come to future sessions of GC.
Where can I find United Methodist theology and doctrine?
Our core and central theology statements are in the BOD and protected by the UMC’s Constitution. Changes in these basics require more than GC action. Such changes are difficult and complex, requiring each Annual Conference worldwide to act. Visit this link on the UMC website to find “What We Believe” http://www.umc.org/en/who-we-are/what-we-believe.
We are United Methodists. That does not mean that we all must think alike. We do not. Never have. Never will. But, as John Wesley suggested, we certainly may all love alike.
I would be open to discussing this further with you or a group of which you are a part at PUMC.
Go in peace. Go with God. And be well.