What is denomination discernment? Seek first to understand how we got here and where we are going.
Respectful dialogue is part of healthy decision-making. Attend a small group forum and make plans to discuss these decisions with church leaders.
Next Steps

Pastors, lay leaders and members of the church are entering into a season of prayer, discernment and conversation to consider Trinity's affiliation with the United Methodist Church. The Church Council decided it is time for Trinity to consider and evaluate its affiliation based on core values and theological beliefs. Together, we are reflecting on 64 years of ministry rooted in traditional Wesleyan Christianity and seeking God’s leading and provision as we enter into this season of discernment. There are many details to consider as the church moves forward in faith. Join us by following the steps below.

PRAYER: Discernment begins with listening. Beginning September 4 th , we will spend 40 days uniting our hearts and minds in prayer, fasting and listening to the Holy Spirit. A prayer guide will be available to unite in this daily rhythm.

Here are a few questions to consider during prayer time. The same questions may be useful in a couple, family or small group discussion.

  • What do we believe as followers of Jesus Christ?
  • Who are we as a church?
  • How are we serving the world?

The answers to these questions may reveal helpful conclusions and directional clues as we move forward in faith.

CONVERSATION: Trinity will hold a series of small group forums for church members. Each session will include an informational overview and a panel discussion with lay and clergy leadership. If you are interested in attending a meeting, please contact the church office (228-863-2717 ext. 1 or office@trinityumc.com) to register. Each meeting will be limited to 20 members. 

How did we get here?

On August 17, 2022, Trinity's Church Council unanimously voted to join numerous congregations in the Mississippi Annual Conference and beyond in a period of official discernment of its future with the United Methodist Church.

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.

Where do we go from here?

Trinity joins congregations across the Mississippi Annual Conference and beyond in discerning its future with The United Methodist Church. Each church must choose a discernment pathway that best reflects its theological beliefs, core values and Christian mission in the world. Other key factors for consideration include matters of business formation, finance, clergy benefits, pensions and credentials, and property.

Option 1: Stay in connection with The United Methodist Church
After discernment, the people of Trinity may decided to remain within the United Methodist Church.  Taking a “wait and see” approach and remaining a congregation associated with The United Methodist Church follows conventional wisdom for maintaining the status quo.  However, there are some that believe this pathway may lead to a very different version of the UMC compared to the organization’s established profile from previous decades.

Presiding Bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference, James Swanson, will retire at the end of 2022, and a new bishop will be appointed in his place. It is possible the new bishop will bring more progressive perspectives and practices to the Conference. Possible outcomes to this change in leadership include the reappointment of pastors, revision to Conference-wide and local church ministry focus and revision to existing terms for churches seeking to disaffiliate from the denomination in 2023 and beyond.

Option 2: Affiliate with another Methodist denomination
As traditionalists look to other conservative expressions of Methodism, there is a desire to retain the classic Wesleyan model of congregational connectionalism — that is, moving together in the direction of growth and renewal not as individual churches but as a network of churches that are theologically and socially aligned.

In the discernment process, Trinity must consider the value in maintaining the connectional model for the purposes of upholding its historic, Wesleyan tradition and for laying the groundwork for future growth and vitality that only comes in shared community.

Examples of Methodist denominations that offer Trinity viable opportunities for connection, renewal and revival in the future: The Global Methodist Church (Website), The Free Methodist Church (Website), or another denomination rooted in Wesleyan theology.

Option 3: Become an independent church
Becoming an independent congregation carries a different set of considerations compared to affiliating with another Methodist denomination.  There are financial and legal distinctions, and in some cases, they are more favorable, such as freedom from paying apportionments to a parent denomination.

With freedom comes more organizational responsibility and risk (for example, maintaining all provisions for clergy benefits and retirement independently, versus the UMC-sponsored plans available through Wespath).

Securing independence from The United Methodist Church means relief from theological and social disagreement of past decades. However, this relief comes at the expense of any official connection with likeminded clergy and congregations. Informal, ad hoc alliances may form among UMC congregations that part ways with the UMC and aren’t ready to affiliate with a different denomination.

Assuming the independent model, the creation of additional structure should be considered in order to maintain a healthy culture of transparency and accountability throughout the organization.