Please click the buttons below to access enotes regarding Denomination News. Enotes will be available here as soon as they are published.
Enote One: December 6, 2021
Enote Two: January 11, 2022
Enote Three: January 18, 2022
General Conference Update: April 27, 2022
Governing Board Enote: June 23, 2022
Governing Board Enote: January 16, 2023
Frequently Asked Questions
The Governing Board has been in prayer and discussion regarding this process for years. What we have concluded is that there is nothing preventing Ebenezer Church from continuing its mission and ministry. That is our main focus as a United Methodist Church. It’s that pure and simple. Hear more from Tim Manning, Co-Chairman of the Governing Board:
Churches have always had the opportunity to disaffiliate from the denomination with different variations and outcomes. The process may vary in the future based on legislation presented at the General Conference in 2024. The only current approved pathway for disaffiliation related to human sexuality is Paragraph 2553.
Paragraph 2553 was proposed and approved at the special called General Conference in 2019 and included an end date (December 31, 2023), 3.5 years from when it was approved to provide a path to disaffiliate for reasons of conscience related to human sexuality. At the time, General Conference was expected to occur in 2020, allowing a few years afterward for decisions and discernment. During that time, the 2020, 2021, and 2022 General Conferences were postponed. What we know is that Paragraph 2553 cannot be extended without a General Conference vote. A similar pathway to disaffiliation would need to be approved by the General Conference. Currently, there are multiple pieces of legislation that will come before the General Conference in 2024 for discussion, one of which would allow several years for discernment and decisions. However, another pathway or extension of Paragraph 2553 will not be adopted until General Conference 2024.
The term “regional conference” refers to a new nomenclature that renames “central conferences” as “regional conferences” and includes the U.S. as its own “regional conference.” As things have always previously been, the existing central conferences (and even the annual conferences within them) can accept, adapt, or reject large swaths of what the General Conference adopts to ensure continuity and effectiveness in ministry in their own part of the world.
Case in point—there remain several Central Conferences that never adopted the restructuring of the ordering of ministry that took place in 1996, creating permanent deacons and a process of commissioning instead of using the office of deacon exclusively as a “transitional” phase toward ordination as elder. They can refuse to make this change—as significant as it was in 1996 and to this day—because they are central conferences, and the Discipline permits them to do so.
The result is there is not, and almost never has been, a “uniform” Book of Discipline worldwide. There is what the General Conference adopts, which is then what is the Discipline for the U.S., and then there is whatever each Central Conference does (or doesn’t do) with it.
This ability of other regions of the world to adapt the Discipline to work better in their environment does not apply in the United States. Whatever General Conference adopts, even when there is widespread disagreement or other significant problems with it in the U.S., simply is the Discipline in the U.S.
There would be close to no changes for your local church were this adopted—or at least, quite likely, few if any changes that your local church would regard as making their lives more difficult. The U.S. in general has been working to streamline legislation to make it more workable for local churches in the US, not all of which passes at General Conference because over 40% of the delegates are from outside the U.S., so only a small minority of U.S. delegates need to support things as they are for them to remain as they are (instead of further streamlined or customized). Assuming current trends, the U.S. will have a minority of General Conference delegates as soon as 2028 (almost certainly in 2032), so the ability of the U.S. to be able to adapt whatever General Conference produces will only become more important over time. For more information on the Christmas Covenant, go to Christmas Covenant FAQs
The chance of that happening is unlikely and would be influenced by the result of a church vote on preferences. When a church is aware that a pastoral change is going to happen, the District Superintendent meets with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee. Each church has a profile updated annually that describes various aspects of the church including context, history, makeup, size, financial condition, convictional stance, and theology, among other things. The needs and theological understanding of the local church are always considered by the Cabinet. (The Cabinet consists of the Bishop and District Superintendents.) Sending a pastor to “convert” a congregation or force an agenda is not healthy for the church nor for the pastor. Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson has stated that the local church will be able to make this decision at the local church level (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ti8qwVJ-hZo&t=16s).
Currently, the Book of Discipline does not allow clergy to officiate same-sex weddings. Our current United Methodist pastors have made a commitment to follow the Book of Discipline. If the Book of Discipline changes, the pastors who are currently serving here will honor the position of Ebenezer.
No pastor is ever forced to marry anyone, nor will they be in the future. Pastors currently make their own decision about their willingness to marry a couple. They have autonomy in that licensure; they can – and do – decline to marry people for a variety of reasons and will retain this discretion now and in the future.
No. There are no proposals before the General Conference to do so, nor have there ever been such proposals to force churches to host same-sex weddings.
When the Protocol of Reconciliation through Grace and Separation was developed and released in January 2020, the proposal to put a temporary hold on, or to hold in abeyance, complaints related to the denomination’s bans on same-sex weddings and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy made sense. With an anticipated General Conference scheduled less than a year later, this was a tangible way to further cool the contention and allow for graceful discussions. Unexpectedly, the unprecedented worldwide pandemic postponed the 2020 General Conference twice until its now scheduled date in 2024.
As to why the Governing Board has not raised concern over this, there are several reasons. First, and most importantly, it was an honest mediated attempt across the different perspectives and beliefs within the denomination to show grace and the love of Jesus to each other while we waited for the 2020 General Conference to convene and the protocol to be voted on. Second, what happens in a handful of churches or conferences around the world has no impact on Ebenezer’s ability to transform lives through Jesus Christ as we connect, heal, and bring hope to the world.
More information can be found at:
These stories are not representative of the more than 36,000 congregations within the United Methodist Church. They concern a few individuals and churches and are being utilized as recruitment propaganda. The GMC/WCA/Good News produce and share these stories to cause alarm and fear, hoping people will want to disaffiliate from the denomination and join their movement. They are not reflective of the larger denomination. They are certainly not reflective of Ebenezer.
When we gather for worship, that time is for worship. Not controversy. Not politics. This time is for worship of God – our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. We gather to worship our Savior Jesus Christ by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Our pastors are ordained and licensed in the United Methodist Church and took vows to uphold, and that means a great deal to our pastors in their calling, vocation, and profession. The same is true for all of us who are members of a United Methodist Church; we all took baptismal vows and membership vows to uphold.
Our pastors have promised to teach and preach in accordance with God’s Word with inspiration from the Holy Spirit. This is what they do; they review sermons together weekly and hold each other accountable.
We will not use a United Methodist pulpit to accommodate other denominations, to include the Global Methodist Church or the Southern Baptist Church or the Mormon Church or others. We will not use it to denigrate our denomination.
The mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; that is our focus in worship and in practice.
Churches may decide to leave for a variety of reasons. Some may have concerns over denominational structure or potential changes to the Book of Discipline. Others are leaving to be independent congregations. The majority of churches are not expected to leave the denomination. So far, 3,755 churches nationwide have disaffiliated, which is around 12%. While that number may sound significant, 88% of churches nationwide are remaining in the United Methodist Church. To date, 107 churches in Virginia have disaffiliated. The final statewide total is expected to be between 150-160 churches, representing 9-10% of churches in Virginia. That means 90% of Virginia churches plan to remain United Methodist.
The current approved process (known as Paragraph 2553) for disaffiliating from the denomination for reasons of conscience related to human sexuality is set to expire on December 31, 2023. Paragraph 2553 was proposed and approved at the special called General Conference in 2019 and included an end date 3.5 years into the future to provide a path to disaffiliate for reasons of conscience related to human sexuality. During those years, the 2020, 2021, and 2022 General Conferences were postponed. What we know is that Paragraph 2553 cannot be extended without a General Conference vote. A similar pathway to disaffiliation is not yet before the upcoming General Conference in 2024, but another pathway or extension of Paragraph 2553 could be proposed or adopted at General Conference 2024.
The Judicial Council announced that the 2020 General Conference was officially postponed, not canceled. This means that the Virginia Conference will not need to elect new delegates for General Conference. Details can be found here: https://vaumc.org/church-court-no-new-elections-needed-for-general-conference-2024/
No. These foundational Christian beliefs are cemented in the doctrine of the United Methodist Church as stated in the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith. Both are found in Part III of the Book of Discipline. These are essential to the teachings at Ebenezer Church.
The Governing Board would contact the District Superintendent (DS), who would come to the church for a meeting with the Governing Board. If a church then chooses to proceed with the disaffiliation process, the draft of costs would be calculated upon the initiation of the spiritual discernment period. During this time of discernment, the church would widely publicize an upcoming vote within 120 days of the DS’s meeting. If more than two-thirds of church members present in person for the vote move to leave the denomination, the results would go to the larger Annual Conference for ratification. Once ratified, the church would need to begin the process of re-establishing itself, including finding new pastors, restructuring staff and leadership, discontinuing the Love Your Neighbor Network, and removing all references to the UMC.
Generally, the cost of disaffiliation would include unpaid pension liability, up to two years of annual apportionment costs, legal fees, and repayment of conference loans/grants, in addition to salary, benefits, and housing for the reminder of the appointment year for all pastors serving that church.
Paragraph 2553/¶ 2553, Page 776 of the Book of Discipline
[This new paragraph became effective at the close of the 2019 General Conference.]
Section VIII. Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality
¶ 2553. Disaffiliation of a Local Church Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality.
1. Because of the current deep conflict within The United Methodist Church around issues of human sexuality, a local church shall have a limited right, under the provisions of this paragraph, to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.
2. Time Limits.
The choice by a local church to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church under this paragraph shall be made in sufficient time for the process for exiting the denomination to be complete prior to December 31, 2023. The provisions of ¶ 2553 expire on December 31, 2023 and shall not be used after that date.
3. Decision Making Process.
The church conference shall be conducted in accordance with ¶ 248 and shall be held within one hundred twenty (120) days after the district superintendent calls for the church conference. In addition to the provisions of ¶ 246.8, special attention shall be made to give broad notice to the full professing membership of the local church regarding the time and place of a church conference called for this purpose and to use all means necessary, including electronic communication where possible, to communicate. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference.
4. Process Following Decision to Disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church.
If the church conference votes to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church, the terms and conditions for that disaffiliation shall be established by the board of trustees of the applicable annual conference, with the advice of the cabinet, the annual conference treasurer, the annual conference benefits officer, the director of connectional ministries, and the annual conference chancellor. The terms and conditions, including the effective date of disaffiliation, shall be memorialized in a binding Disaffiliation Agreement between the annual conference and the trustees of the local church, acting on behalf of the members. That agreement must be consistent with the following provisions:
a) Standard Terms of the Disaffiliation Agreement.
The General Council on Finance and Administration shall develop a standard form for Disaffiliation Agreements under this paragraph to protect The United Methodist Church as set forth in ¶ 807.9. The agreement shall include a recognition of the validity and applicability of ¶ 2501, notwithstanding the release of property therefrom. Annual conferences may develop additional standard terms that are not inconsistent with the standard form of this paragraph.
The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months
prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.
A disaffiliating local church shall have the right to retain its real and personal, tangible and intangible property. All transfers of property shall be made prior to disaffiliation. All costs for transfer of title or other legal work shall be borne by the disaffiliating local church.
d) Pension Liabilities.
The local church shall contribute withdrawal liability in an amount equal to its pro rata share of any aggregate unfunded pension obligations to the annual conference. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits shall determine the aggregate funding obligations of the annual conference using market factors similar to a commercial annuity provider, from which the annual conference will determine the local church’s share.
e) Other Liabilities.
The local church shall satisfy all other debts, loans, and liabilities, or assign and transfer them to its new entity, prior to disaffiliation.
f) Payment Terms.
Payment shall occur prior to the effective date of departure.
g) Disaffiliating Churches Continuing as Plan Sponsors of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Plans.
The United Methodist Church believes that a local church disaffiliating under ¶2553 shall continue to share common religious bonds and convictions with The United Methodist Church based on shared Wesleyan theology and tradition and Methodist roots, unless the local church expressly resolves to the contrary. As such, a local church disaffiliating under ¶ 2553 shall continue to be eligible to sponsor voluntary employee benefit plans through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits under ¶ 1504.2, subject to the applicable terms and conditions of the plans.
h) Once the disaffiliating local church has reimbursed the applicable annual conference for all funds due under the agreement, and provided that there are no other outstanding liabilities or claims against The United Methodist Church as a result of the disaffiliation, in consideration of the provisions of this paragraph, the applicable annual conference shall release any claims that it may have under ¶ 2501 and other paragraphs of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church commonly referred to as the trust clause, or under the agreement.
[Note: In Decision 1379, the Judicial Council clarified that the process of disaffiliation by a local church is not finalized until a simple majority of the annual conference acts to approve the motion for disaffiliation.]
No. A “split” occurs when there is a negotiated agreement to divide assets and resources. However, the denomination is “splintering” in some ways.
Ebenezer is part of the United Methodist denomination, and as such, we are bound by the doctrine and policies of the larger denomination. When those policies change, that impacts the local church.
The current questions revolve around: (1) whether the language in the Book of Discipline defining “homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching” will change; (2) whether “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” will be eligible for ordination; (3) whether clergy will be allowed to officiate same-gender weddings; and (4) whether United Methodist churches will allow same-gender weddings to occur on church grounds.
The denomination does not speak with one voice on these questions. The Book of Discipline makes several statements about human sexuality. For a more thorough understanding of the church’s stance on these issues, please visit this link on the denominational website.
The Book of Discipline can only be changed at a quadrennial gathering of elected delegates called General Conference. The next General Conference is scheduled to occur in 2024. It is possible the language surrounding ordination of persons who are homosexual and the clergy’s right to officiate same-gender weddings may change at any General Conference if the delegates make proposals and vote to approve those changes. We do not know what will happen. The following General Conference would be 2028.
Nothing. We may remain in the United Methodist denomination without making any changes.
If the Governing Board of Ebenezer discerns that disaffiliating from the United Methodist denomination would be in the best interest of Ebenezer’s mission and ministry, that body would initiate the process. A vote would come later in that process. This is the process approved and outlined in Paragraph 2553 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Ask The UMC has created a series of FAQs designed to help dispel false information and provide accurate answers to questions about the church’s official positions, disaffiliation, and what the future holds. You may access all of the questions and answers in the series using the button below.
Skunk on the Table is a video, podcast and article series with a focus on simple and clear conversations about topics of interest to the Virginia Conference and denomination.
In the second episode of the series, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson shares her thoughts on disaffiliation, advice for churches considering disaffiliation, and encouragement to clergy and laity in the Virginia Conference to be boldly United Methodist and to focus on their ministry and witness. Click the button below to watch or listen to the full episode or read a recap of topics discussed.
Click the button below to read “Fact vs. Fiction: Clarifying Common Misstatements” from the North Texas Conference of the UMC.
Click the button below to watch the new We Are The UMC video.
UM News is the official source of comprehensive information and news about the United Methodist Church. You may access UM News using the button below.
Please click the link below to learn more about the United Methodist Church’s beliefs regarding homosexuality.
Please click the button below to view a chart of the United Methodist Church organizational structure.
The Mission Rivers District is made up of 136 United Methodist churches and is led by the District Superintendent. You may access the Mission Rivers District website using the button below.
The Virginia Annual Conference (VAUMC) is made up of 1,100 United Methodist churches in Virginia and is led by the Bishop. You may access the VAUMC website using the button below.
The Southeastern Jurisdiction is made up of United Methodist churches from Virginia, south to Florida, and west to Tennessee and Mississippi. It is led by the Council Bishops. You may access the Southeastern Jurisdiction website using the button below.
The General Conference is made up of five Jurisdictions in the United States, plus Central Conferences in Africa, the Philippines, and more. It is led by Elected Delegates. You may access the General Conference website using the button below.