The Discernment team has been tasked with gathering information to aid our congregation in the discernment process. To that end, we have compiled this non-exhaustive list of FAQs. Where possible, we have attempted to link back to a primary source for your further reading. In such an uncertain time, we aim to provide factual information for your consideration, and we encourage you to get information from official publications like the United Methodist Church (UMC.org, umcnews.org), the Global Methodist Church (globalmethodist.org), the Free Methodist Church (fmcusa.org), etc.
If you have additional topics that you would like for us to address, please email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
IS THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH FORMALLY SPLITTING?
No. The General Conference of The United Methodist Church has not adopted legislation to divide the denomination’s assets and resources. Only the General Conference has authority to authorize a denominational split. Currently, some traditionalists have launched a new denomination called the Global Methodist Church and are encouraging like-minded clergy and congregations to disaffiliate from the UMC in order to join the new denomination. Likewise, there are additional clergy and congregations with an array of theological leanings considering leaving the denomination for various reasons.
Book of Discipline ¶2553, adopted by the 2019 General Conference allows a pathway to disaffiliation that does not require a congregation to purchase their property from the Annual Conference. There are other financial responsibilities a congregation must meet to be in accordance with ¶2553. This option is only available until the end of the year 2023. This has motivated some congregations to pursue disaffiliation now instead of waiting for future General Conference legislation.
IS CULLMAN FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH GOING TO LEAVE THE UMC?
We are currently in a season of discernment on the future of our church. The work of discernment and the decision to stay or leave the United Methodist Church will be done by the members of this congregation.
WHAT ARE OUR AFFILIATION OPTIONS?
• Remain with the United Methodist Church
• Join the new Global Methodist Church
• Join another Methodist denomination such as the Free Methodists
• Become an independent Methodist church with the possibility of joining a network of other former UMC churches that is under development, or later deciding to join another Methodist denomination.
WILL WE STILL BE A METHODIST CHURCH IF WE DISAFFILIATE FROM THE UMC?
All of the options that are currently being considered at this time are rooted in the tradition of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.
WHAT IS THE UMC TRUST CLAUSE AND HOW DID IT CHANGE UNDER THE 2019 GENERAL CONFERENCE?
The United Methodist trust clause is a statement included in legal documents (deeds) declaring that the property and assets of a local church or United Methodist body are held “in trust” for the benefit of the entire denomination. The trust clause ensures that United Methodist property will continue to be used for the purposes of The United Methodist Church.
The trust clause itself was not altered by the 2019 General Conference.
Instead, a time-limited provision was approved, which allows congregations to leave the denomination with their property and assets “for reasons of conscience” related to changes made by the 2019 General Conference regarding homosexuality, after meeting certain requirements The requirements include the following:
First, at least two-thirds of the professing members present at a church conference must vote in favor of disaffiliation.
Second, the church must pay to the conference two full years of apportionments and the congregation’s pro rata share of their conference’s unfunded clergy pension liability as determined by the annual conference.
Finally, after all payments are completed, a majority vote of an annual conference session must affirm the closure of the church as a United Methodist congregation and its disaffiliation from the denomination. These provisions expire Dec. 31, 2023.
HOW IS THE SENIOR MINISTER INVOLVED IN THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS?
All members of the Discernment Team are laity, representing the Board of Trustees, Board of Stewards and a cross section of the congregation. As senior minister, Lyle Holland serves as a resource to the committee to provide theological perspective, history and context to the ongoing issues. As his membership in the UMC is with the North Alabama Conference, he does not have a vote on the Discernment committee or in the church conference vote.
WHAT IS THE UNITED METHODIST STANCE ON HUMAN SEXUALITY?
Social Principles: Human Sexuality
We affirm that sexuality is God's good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.
Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.
We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children. All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.
We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
WHAT IS THE GMC STANCE ON HUMAN SEXUALITY?
Part Two: Social Witness
7. We believe that human sexuality is a gift of God that is to be affirmed as it is exercised within the legal and spiritual covenant of a loving and monogamous marriage between one man and one woman (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 19:3-9, Ephesians 5:22-33).
8. We are saddened by all expressions of sexual behavior, including pornography, polygamy, and promiscuity, that do not recognize the sacred worth of each individual or that seek to exploit, abuse, objectify, or degrade others, or that represent less than God’s intentional design for His children. While affirming a scriptural view of sexuality and gender, we welcome all to experience the redemptive grace of Jesus and are committed to being a safe place of refuge, hospitality, and healing for any who may have experienced brokenness in their sexual lives (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20).
IS THE UMC ABOUT TO ALTER ITS DOCTRINE TO DENY THE VIRGIN BIRTH, THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST, THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST, OR SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST ALONE?
No. All of these positions are bedrock in the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church, more specifically in the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith. These cannot be altered without a two-thirds vote of the General Conference followed by a three-fourths aggregate approval of all annual conferences of The United Methodist Church worldwide. There is no basis to conclude such majorities can be achieved to alter the Articles and Confession for any reason.
Here is what the Articles and Confession say on these matters. And will continue to say.
Virgin Birth and Divinity of Jesus
Articles of Religion, Article II:
“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin.”
Confession of Faith, Article II:
“We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Articles of Religion, Article III:
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.
Confession of Faith, Article II:
"Jesus Christ... was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return."
Salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ
Articles of Religion, Article IX:
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith.”
Confession of Faith, Article IX:
“We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF OUR PASTOR DECIDES TO LEAVE THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, BUT OUR CONGREGATION WISHES TO CONTINUE AS A UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
The Bishop of the North Alabama Conference will appoint a new pastor to our congregation.
WHAT HAPPENS IF OUR CONGREGATION VOTES TO DISAFFILIATE FROM THE UMC, BUT OUR PASTOR WANTS TO REMAIN IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
Once <the> congregation’s disaffiliation is complete, you will no longer be appointed a pastor by the North Alabama Conference. Your pastor will receive a new appointment, and it will be up to your congregation to secure your congregation’s pastoral leadership. If your church is planning to unite with a different denomination, you will work with the leaders of that denomination to determine pastoral leadership.
WHAT IS THE WESLEYAN COVENANT ASSOCIATION?
The Wesleyan Covenant Association is a global connection of local churches, laity, clergy, and regional chapters that seeks to partner with like-minded orthodox Christians to build a new global Methodist church.
DURING THIS TIME, WHAT CAN I DO?
Please pray for our church, our Discernment Team, our staff and others in the UMC, and participate in the scheduled informational meetings on the available options for Cullman First going forward. Listening sessions will be held during this time to answer questions that you may have.
IF CULLMAN FIRST DISAFFILIATES FROM THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, WOULD THE CHURCH'S POSSESSIONS (IN ADDITION TO THE PROPERTY) THEN BELONG TO THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH?
If a church that votes to disaffiliate from the UMC fully satisfies the financial obligations as set by the North Alabama Conference. said church will then own all properties and be released from the UMC Trust Clause. The United Methodist Trust Clause, whether included in the deed or implied by the Book of Discipline, states that all local church property is held in trust for the United Methodist denomination, ensuring that the property would revert to the North Alabama Conference if the church ceased to function as a United Methodist church. This clause would be removed once a church disaffiliates from the denomination.
IF CULLMAN FIRST DISAFFILIATES FROM THE UMC, WILL MOTHER'S DAY OUT AND SONSHINE PRESCHOOLS BE REQUIRED TO CLOSE?
No. Mother’s Day Out and Sonshine Preschool would not be affected by the church’s possible disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church. Both preschools are vital ministries and highly valued by this congregation and the Cullman community. Mother's Day Out and Sonshine will continue to serve young families in our community for years to come, regardless of Cullman First’s future affiliation.