Enotes

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

NEW: Some United Methodist bishops are “holding in abeyance” complaint processes addressing restrictions in the Book of Discipline related to gay clergy and same-sex weddings. Where did this idea come from, and why is it not a concern for Ebenezer?

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, our bishop did not endorse it. Third, 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:

https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-2#ignoring-discipline 

https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-5#discipline

NEW: Was the 2020 General Conference postponed, or canceled and rescheduled for 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/

NEW: Is the United Methodist Church, as some individuals and organizations have claimed, changing its theology to renounce the Bible’s authority or deny the Trinity?

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.

NEW: Why is the Global Methodist Church/Wesleyan Covenant Association/Good News movement sharing stories about a small number of pastors and churches not following the Book of Discipline? Why have I not heard these stories from the pulpit or in communication from the Governing Board?

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.

NEW: If the Governing Board thought that the vast majority of the congregation would want to leave the denomination, what would the process of disaffiliation be?

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.

NEW: What would the cost of disaffiliation be?

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.

NEW: What does Paragraph 2553 say?

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.

b) Apportionments.
The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months
prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.

c) Property.
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.] 

UPDATED: If Ebenezer want to leave the denomination as a church at some point, is there a deadline by which that decision needs to be made?

Not necessarily. The current approved process (known as Paragraph 2553) for disaffiliating from the denomination is set to expire on December 31, 2023. Denominational leadership will provide a new pathway or extend those provisions after the conclusion of the General Conference in May 2024.

Is the United Methodist denomination splitting?

No. A “split” occurs when there is a negotiated agreement to divide assets and resources. However, the denomination is “splintering” in some ways.

How does what is happening in the denomination impact Ebenezer?

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.

Why are some churches deciding to leave the United Methodist Church?

The majority of churches are not expected to leave the denomination. Over the past three years, about 680 churches have disaffiliated. While that number may sound significant, this total is only 2.3% of churches nationwide in the United Methodist Church. 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.

What are the main issues?

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.

What does the United Methodist denomination teach about homosexuality and marriage?

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.

Will Ebenezer follow the Book of Discipline?

Yes.

Will Ebenezer have a gay pastor?

In accordance with the Book of Discipline, the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church does not currently ordain persons who are gay. Should this change at some point in the future, Ebenezer will have a choice.

Will Ebenezer allow same-sex weddings?

In accordance with the Book of Discipline, the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church does not currently allow same-gender weddings to occur in its churches and does not currently allow United Methodist pastors to officiate these weddings. If this stance changes in the future, Ebenezer Church will have a choice. Additionally, pastors will have their own choice to make.

Will the Book of Discipline be changed to remove the current language about homosexuality?

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.

If Ebenezer remains United Methodist, what do we as a church need to do?

Nothing. We may remain in the United Methodist denomination without making any changes.

Will Ebenezer take a congregational vote?

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.

Resources

NEW Ask the UMC Series: Is the United Methodist Church really...?

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.

Is the UMC really…?

United Methodist News Service

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.

UNITED METHODIST NEWS SERVICE

What is the United Methodist Church's position on homosexuality?

Please click the link below to learn more about the United Methodist Church’s beliefs regarding homosexuality.

What is the Church’s position on homosexuality?

UMC Denominational Structure

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UMC ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE

Mission Rivers District

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.

Mission Rivers District

Virginia Annual Conference

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.

VIRGINIA ANNUAL CONFERENCE

Southeastern Jurisdiction

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SOUTHEASTERN JURISDICTION

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GENERAL CONFERENCE

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