By Jessica Brodie
United Methodists across South Carolina are having a variety of reactions to the news that General Conference has been postponed to 2024 and that the Wesleyan Covenant Association is launching its new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, this month.
Some are taking the news in stride, continuing their work for Jesus and waiting until the general church gathers again to tackle some of the tougher questions around sexuality and separation. Others are having discussions about whether or not they wish to pursue disaffiliation and what to do next.
The United Methodist Church’s top court, the Judicial Council, released six decisions Feb. 9 related to how congregations can leave the denomination with property if they wish. However, the court had not ruled as of press time on whether an annual conference within the United States can separate.
South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston released a statement calling for patience amid a “cacophony of voices” that have been offering details and conversations about the future of The United Methodist Church—what will happen and when.
“What we do know is that the General Conference is postponed until 2024, and the General Conference is the body that speaks for the denomination,” Holston said. “What I am asking all of us to do is to be patient.
“Presently, in The Book of Discipline, Para. 2553 exists as a pathway to disaffiliation for churches whose members disagree with the current language in The Book of Discipline. Please know that we are monitoring the ongoing deliberations of Judicial Council decisions. If you have questions, we encourage you to be in further conversation with your district superintendent, who has the most recent information available.
“Moving forward, we will communicate about ways that every congregation in our Annual Conference can make the decisions that assist in living into our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
There are a few resources for churches to consider if they are seeking information about disaffiliation.
First, an “Ask the UMC” article titled “What Should United Methodist Congregations Know about Disaffiliation?” has been released on UMC.org, the denomination’s website, attempting to clarify what they call “a lot of confusion and misinformation in the church about this topic.”
The article includes a number of steps, the first being to have your pastor contact your district superintendent for guidance. Others include familiarizing yourself with the three paragraphs in The Book of Discipline pertaining to disaffiliation, which are Paras. 2553, 2548.2 and 2549.3b, as well as following a discernment process facilitated by your district superintendent. Read it at https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-should-united-methodist-congregations-know-about-disaffiliation.
A comprehensive article released in February by Heather Hahn of the United Methodist News Service, “Church Court Clarifies Disaffiliation Rules,” also contains a wealth of helpful information. Read it at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/church-court-clarifies-disaffiliation-rules.
The Advocate will be monitoring court rulings and other information as they are released and report in future editions.