One of the challenges of a Q & A is that for many questions there are a multitude of answers. Because of different perspectives of the causes and different speculations of possible future scenarios, it is easy to veer from facts, which only go so far to opinions and speculations. The following answers contain them all: fact and opinion, information and speculation. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to answer many of today’s questions without fact, opinion, information and speculation.
On August 17, 2022, Trinity’s Church Council unanimously voted to enter into a season of Denomination Discernment. What does that mean? Discernment is a period of understanding the congregation, hearing from the membership about hopes for the future and determining where God is calling our church. This process is grounded in information, communication, and most importantly, prayer. Discernment will not necessarily end in a vote. Discernment may end in conversation that agrees remaining a UMC congregation is best for our church and community. It might, however, culminate in a vote of the church conference (membership of the church) to determine Trinity’s future affiliation as a congregation. Questions we will consider together, include:
First and foremost, prayer. As a church, we much prayerfully discern our denominational connection that best reflects our theological beliefs, core values and Christian mission in the world.
Second, conversation and information gathering. We are offering a number of congregational information sessions that allow you to receive information from church leadership and ask questions about remaining in the UMC, joining another denomination and the costs of both options.
Upon completion of the 40 Day discernment process, if the Church Council believes there is sufficient interest in having a vote, a church conference will be called to vote in regards to Trinity’s affiliation with the UMC.
For decades, United Methodist Church leaders have been engaged in discussion and disagreement regarding theological and biblical interpretation. One question has become the presenting issue, how to deal with same-sex orientation, practice, and identity when it comes to marriage and ordination. Differences regarding the presenting issue have revealed other significant points of contention between groups within our denomination, including questions revolving around the trust clause for local church properties, the authority and tenure of bishops, the role of general agencies, and more deeply perhaps, how to read and interpret key passages of scripture. These disagreements bring us to the place where we are today, of considering how to best reconcile our differences, including the possibility of separation.
If the discernment process reveals a ministry calling outside the UMC, registered members of the church will have the opportunity to participate in a called church conference for the purpose of voting to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. If needed, the Church Council could call a vote to disaffiliate later this fall.
The financial obligations associated with disaffiliation in the Mississippi Annual Conference (MAC) are highly favorable compared to those of other conferences around the nation. MAC requires the base minimum allowed by UMC governance regulations: 1) pay in full previous year’s apportionments and current year apportionments and 2) pay in full unfunded pension liability. These costs are manageable within the current operating budget and reserves of Trinity.
Completing the disaffiliation process ensures Trinity will leave the United Methodist Church with our property and material assets, free of any trust clause referencing the denomination.
The trust clause is a historic, universal claim made by the UMC and written into the church’s articles of incorporation in an effort to retain ownership rights of local church properties. Trinity will be automatically released from this claim upon a final vote for disaffiliation by the Mississippi Annual Conference.
If Trinity ultimately decides to disaffiliate, then affiliating with another denomination is a possibility. Trinity seeks to advance its connectional Wesleyan heritage; however, it’s too soon to determine a specific affiliation pathway for the future. Among the options for possible future affiliation are The Global Methodist Church, the Free Methodist Church USA and other connections in the Wesleyan heritage. If Trinity decides to disaffiliate, the Church Council, lay leadership and clergy team will work to study the best way forward. One possible outcome includes Trinity becoming an independent Methodist Church for a temporary period of time, before affiliating with a new or different Methodist denomination.