As I write, on April 1, part of me is thinking “wouldn’t it be nice if the whole mess was an early April Fools prank. Can’t we just carry on with the vital local mission and ministry our churches extend in their community and share with each other in worship and devotion?” But I know that denial is avoiding reality. And avoiding the reality of changes and challenges underway in the United Methodist Church would mean closing our eyes and ears to developments that are critically important to each UM church’s future.
Many people’s eyes glaze over when it comes to the structure and workings of our denomination. We may know what we want in a church and don’t want to be bogged down in the details of what actually makes a church work. Or we may want to spring into action or just react to tidbits we hear. But constructive, effective action is based on good information.
This week’s Topic: “What about our buildings?”
When asked “what do you need to move forward,” participants gave variations of:
To keep our church building.
An answer to how properties and pensions would be divided and supported.
One of the less understood characteristics of connectional churches is the Trust Clause.
(Presbyterian and Episcopal churches are two of many other connectional denominations with trust clauses.) The General Council on Finance and Administration’s excellent guide to the trust clausegoes to the heart of who we are as a connectional, itinerant, missional church. It also answers the question:
I’ve heard people in my church say it isn’t right for the denomination to have such control over our property through the trust clause. They say it isn’t fair because it was our contributions that built this church and paid for its upkeep. Therefore, it should be our church. How should I respond to these statements as a faithful United Methodist?
“You could start by telling them they are right – it is their church! And as United Methodists, because of the trust clause, they can say the same thing about every other United Methodist church. You could also say it wasn’t just their contributions that built and sustained the church, but also the contributions of perhaps generations of people before them who contributed with the purpose and hope that the church continues to be a United Methodist church in the future. You could then tell them their financial support of the church is just one side of a covenant. The United Methodist Church also made a covenant to supply and supervise ministers, provide financial and other aid to the church if needed, develop Sunday school materials and hymnals, and many other things.
But, again, the most important point is that no United Methodist church stands alone. Each United Methodist church is part of a larger connection of shared purpose and mission that has been in existence for hundreds of years. And this connection is at the core of what it means to be United Methodist. You and your church are part of something much larger than yourselves – something you can be proud of as Methodism reaches the world over to make disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Every church in our connection has benefited throughout its life span from resources of the other churches. But now there are two stresses on the covenant relationship described in the excerpt above:
So, what happens if a church wants to leave the denomination? (Remember that, until the Judicial Council rules and until after General Conference 2020, there is confusion about what a church would be leaving behind!)
There have been questions about Annual Conferences forming new denominations. However, the 2019 General Conference failed to create a process for this, leaving legal questions currently being investigated. Stay tuned!
Next edition’s topic: Questions about the Judicial Council process.
Meanwhile, what can you do now?
Who is God? Who am I? Who are we together?
These core concepts and questions have never been more important.
Groups of several different perspectives are networking as all await the UMC Judicial Council’s rulings April 23-24, 2019. You can learn more about the Judicial Council itself by clicking on this link.
Here are the main streams of development:
Wesleyan Covenant Association,“WCA,” are the sponsors of the traditionalist perspective that prevailed, though its full plan did not, at General Conference 2019. They will hold a Northeast Jurisdiction event,“Envisioning the Next Methodism”at Washington Crossing UMC, Washington Crossing, PA.Saturday, May 11, 2019, 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
For more information, contact Joe DiPaolo (firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-394-7231)
UMForward shares stories of the people most impacted and information about a planned summit May 17-18 people of color, queer, transgendered centered discussion about the future of the United Methodist Church.
The Reconciling Network is a way that United Methodist churches and individuals committed to full inclusion (including marriage and ordination) can not only demonstrate their support but learn how to live into it in their own ministry settings.
There is also evidence of a “Compatibilist” movement forming, designed to bring Centrists and Progressives together. The Church of the Resurrection’s annual fall Leadership Institute will be dedicated to General Conference 2019, 2020 related topics, September 25 - 27, 2019. Event details and registration will be available in May 2019 at li.cor.org. Note: While several national leadership meetings have been mentioned, I have not been able to find any ways to connect with this movement. If you learn of one, please let me know so that we may share.
Karen L Munson
A pastor and artist, I'm wondering while I'm wandering through God's marvelous creation.