Affiliation FAQ

What is our current affiliation?
Affiliation is defined as the act of connecting or associating with an organization.  John Wesley UMC is affiliated with the United Methodist Church denomination.  We are affiliated with a Wesleyan Methodist way of doing theology.
 
What is discerning affiliation?
This time of discernment is a period of understanding our beliefs as a congregation and discerning what affiliation is the best fit for our mission and ministry.  This process is grounded in information -- asking questions of ourselves, our denomination and the Holy Spirit.  The process includes personal and corporate prayer with times of learning and listening.
 
Why are we doing this?  
Different segments of the UMC denomination are changing their practices and stances on social issues in relationship to the traditional Christian practices of sexuality, marriage and ordination. The UMC is a big tent denomination.  This is one of our major strengths and one of our major weaknesses.  Our church needs to discern what faith practices fit our current life and our preferred future in light of these issues.  We need to explore whether our church aligns with current and/or future doctrine and social practices of our affiliation.

Currently, the UMC beliefs and stance on practices of sexuality and marriage in relation to ordination have been openly disobeyed. Some see the disobedience as needed to bring about change.  For others, it is an attack on their Christian values and historical stances on sexuality, marriage and ordination. Each member and the church as a whole must discern where they believe God is leading us.

The larger question we will need to answer as individuals and as a church is whether we want to change our biblical stances on sexuality, marriage and ordination.  What’s the best fit for our local congregation and our mission to connect people to Jesus? Has the UMC and the direction of a segment of our denomination made the UMC and John Wesley incompatible?

How can we discern?  
Henri Nouwen believes that Christian discernment is not the same as decision making.  Reaching a decision can be straightforward.  Discernment, on the other hand, is about listening and responding to that place within us where our deepest desires align with God’s desire.  As discerning people, we sift through our impulses, motives, and options to discover which ones lead us closer to divine love and compassion for ourselves and other people and which ones lead us further away. Discernment is defined as the spiritual practice that accesses and seeks to understand what God is trying to say.

We can do that through the following ways:
  • Engage in individual and corporate times of prayer
  • Worship and have fellowship with other believers
  • Read God’s Holy Scriptures and reflect upon what is conveyed
  • Ask questions of ourselves and our church community
  • Listen and learn from the spiritual perspectives of others
  • Clarify your beliefs and social practices/stances
  • Search yourself and decide whether or not you are a compatibilist.
  • Examine the mission of the church and pray about how you can best help fulfill it
  • Gain insight into God’s timing (kairos) on when John Wesley should act and how

Questions to Ask Yourself for Discernment:
  • Why am I a member of John Wesley UMC?
  • What keeps me a member of this church? My vows of membership?  Family?  Friends?
  • How important are a theological stance and biblical interpretation on social issues?
  • How do you personally practice your Christian faith at John Wesley?
  • What is the doctrine and theology of the UMC?
  • Do I personally connect with the doctrine and theology of the UMC?
  • Do I desire more from my denominational affiliation?
  • Does it bother me that others interpret the scriptures differently on social issues?
  • Does it bother me that others hold a different stance on sexuality in relation to marriage and ordination?
  • Where do I identify on the Four Views Chart?
  • Do I feel the affiliation of JW needs to change for me to remain faithful to current beliefs and mission?
  • Is God calling me to change my views or stances?
  • Is God calling my church to change its views or stances?
  • Could I remain in a local church where others think differently?
  • Could I affiliate with a denomination that thinks differently on sexuality in relation to marriage and ordination?
 
Important UMC Denominational Info:  Link to the UMC Book of Discipline — https://www.cokesbury.com/book-of-discipline-book-of-resolutions-free-versions  

Important Sections in the Book of Discipline:
  1. Doctrines and Theological Task — Paragraphs 101-159 or Pages 47-103
  2. Social Principles — Paragraphs 160- 166 or Pages 105-145
  3. Sexuality — Paragraph 161 or Page 113
 
What is the end goal of the discernment of affiliation process?
The end goal of this time of discernment is to align our will with God’s will and discover whether our current affiliation with the UMC is right for our church.  We need to discuss and talk about the future vision of our church and how it would or would not align with our current UMC affiliation.  Each member must ask the question, “How can I best help fulfill John Wesley’s mission to connect people to Jesus and what affiliation best helps accomplish that?” Unity should be another end goal of discernment -- the unity around the gospel and how we live that out through the mission, ministry and purpose of our church.

This time of discernment may or may not end with a vote to disaffiliate.
 
What is disaffiliation?
Local UM churches can disaffiliate from the denomination for many reasons.  If a congregation discerns its current UMC affiliation is not in alignment with its current or future mission, it can vote to disaffiliate with the UMC.  It can then vote to affiliate with another expression of Methodism or go fully independent. The official description of this process is found in Paragraph 2553 in the UMC Book of Discipline.

Where do you fall on the chart?

"I'm out if..."

Progressive
Non-Compatiblists

"If others don't see it the way I do, I don't know if we can be in the same church. The practices and policies of every church denomination should align with my interpretation of scripture."

"I can stay if..."

Progressive
Compatiblists

"If others can respect different views, we can be in the same church. I can be in a denomination where the practices and policies of other churches may reflect different interpretations of scripture."

"I can stay if..."

Traditional
Combatiblists

"If others can respect different views, we can be in the same church. I can be in a denomination where the practices and policies of other churches may reflect different interpretations of scripture."

"I'm out if..."

Traditional
Non-Compatiblists

"If others want to change the traditional interpretations of scripture on core topics, I don't think I can remain in the same church or denomination. I'm not okay with the reinterpreting of scripture."

Questions that will be answered during the discernment sessions:

GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT AFFILIATION
  • Why would any local UMC considering separating from the United Methodist denomination?
  • Why is this happening now?
  • What will change if John Wesley leaves the UMC?
  • What is the process to disaffiliate from the UMC?
  • When will the change be official, if John Wesley votes to disaffiliate?
  • Would John Wesley potentially affiliate with another denomination?
  • Who gets to make the decision to part ways with the UMC, and when will that happen?
  • How will this affect my church membership?
  • Will we change our church name?

HUMAN SEXUALITY
  • Isn’t the division in the UMC about accepting LGBTQIA+ people in the church? I’ve seen it in the news media.
  • What is our stance on LGBTQIA+ clergy and marriage?
  • Are LGBTQIA+ persons welcome at our church?
  • FINANCE, PROPERTY AND LEGAL
  • What is the financial impact of this transition transition if the vote is to disaffiliate?
  • What happens to the church’s 501(c)3 status?
  • Will the church retain our buildings and property?
  • What is the trust clause and how does that affect our church?
  • What is the legal risk of leaving the denomination?

PASTORS AND STAFF
  • Where do our pastors stand on this issue? Do they support leaving the denomination?
  • How will our staff be impacted by a transition away from the UMC?