DISCERNING OUR FUTURE
NOTE: Beginning in June 2022, and particularly from September through November 2022 our congregation has undertaken a Discernment Process in order to articulate clarity regarding our mission and core values, and to make good decisions regarding our ongoing denominational affiliation. This page includes an August 7, 2022 congregational letter from Pastor Dave and an outline of the initial process now completed. A December 10, 2022 update from Pastor Dave has been added, announcing an extension of our Discernment Process through March of 2023 in order to undertake some additional elements now required by the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church prior to any formal vote for disaffiliation.
UPDATE: Our required study of the "Stay or Go" video (available on our conference website video ) and Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and the United Methodist Church will take place on Wednesdays, January 18 -- February 15, at 6:30 p.m. The presentation from Rev. Archie at our January 14 Information Conference is available here DS Info session PowerPoint.pptx
December 10, 2022
Dear Members and Friends:
I am writing to update you on the denominational affiliation discernment process our congregation embarked on starting this June, and including a series of formal activities from September through November of this year. We have completed the planned congregational meetings; study; core values update; and discussion of the legal, property, and practical issues by our Church Council; and all have been encouraged to continue to pray for one another using Ephesians 3:14-21.
The Policy Update
While we were hoping to consider the option of a formal disaffiliation vote as early as November of this year under our Conference’s 2020 policy (regarding the temporary denominational provision allowing for such a vote), we have recently learned this will not be possible. Instead, we are now required to follow the updated Conference policy put in place in July of this year should we want to keep a change in our denominational affiliation as a viable option (before the temporary general-church provision “sunsets” in 2023). The good news is the updated policy’s additional property fees have been dropped for congregations like Harbeson that started the process before July of this year. The more challenging news is that two more congregational gatherings and an additional specified study component (to be held between the required meetings) are necessary before any official voting conference on the matter may be held.
Some Dates Moving Forward
Therefore, this November our Harbeson Church Council agreed to extend our denominational affiliation discernment process long enough to complete the required elements. Our District Superintendent (DS), the Rev. Joseph Archie, is aware of our continued discernment and desire to move forward with the process. Accordingly, he has scheduled the following two required congregational meetings with us, as well as a formal voting church conference should we finally discern that disaffiliation is God’s best for our congregation.
Also as required, in between the Jan. 14 Information Conference and the Mar. 4 Open Forum all will be invited to a church-wide discussion of a Conference-produced video called “Stay or Go,” and a 4-week study of Living Faithfully: Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church (exact time and date TBD).
Again, thank you for your patience with this process, and with all involved. In this hopeful, healing season of Advent, let us continue lifting up specific prayers for one another and for all our neighbors. However this process unfolds in the new year, we are grateful our church can and will always be a healing place in honor and service to our coming Lord Jesus.
Grace and peace,
David B. Humphrey
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August 7, 2022
Dear Members and Friends:
Greetings in the matchless name of Jesus. It has been an honor to serve as your pastor for a full year now. You have helped Susan and me feel very much at home in your midst, and we thank you for your good spirit, and just for being the loving, kind-hearted congregation you are.
The topic of this letter is our denominational future. A unique situation in United Methodist history presents us with a very important congregational decision within the next several months. The basic decision point is sometimes referred to as “Stay or Go,” that is, available paths include remaining United Methodist, reaffiliating with a new denomination, or becoming an independent congregation.
In order to keep our options open and to make the best possible decisions, the Church Council and I are inviting the whole congregation into a three-month discernment process. Our intent is to proceed in a way that is neither rash, nor haphazard, but thoughtful and Spirit-led.
The Process will include a series of church-wide meetings, supported with prayer, culminating in a possible church wide vote
(Church Conference) in November. Three supporting activities that might aid our discernment are detailed below.
For the past 50 years our denomination, along with many others, has experienced sharp disagreement regarding sexual ethics, and more importantly, the biblical and theological basis for discerning what constitutes appropriate belief and practice regarding these and other matters. To resolve the ongoing unhealthy conflict, in early 2020 a potentially groundbreaking Protocol for amicably separating the denomination into at least two new official expressions of Methodism was agreed to by a diverse group of leaders including several leading bishops.
While the protocol was expected to be passed at General Conference 2020 (and again in 2021 and 2022), due to COVID-19 postponements and other factors, the plan now looks unlikely to be considered or passed when General Conference meets again in 2024.
Instead, our bishops are allowing utilization of a temporary provision passed in 2019 for local churches who wish to disaffiliate and become independent or reaffiliate with one of the new expressions of Methodism envisioned in the Protocol.
The provision enables churches to retain their property while choosing a new denominational affiliation, which is not normally provided in United Methodist polity. This provision expires at the end of 2023 and can’t be effectively utilized after the end of 2022. Hence the urgent need at least to consider the option carefully now before this opportunity closes.
So, the basic components of the process will be Pray, Discern, and Decide, as detailed below. The three supporting activities will include:
(1) a study, facilitated by me, on the biblical and theological foundations for ethics and their application to the issues before us;
(2) an identification by our Church Council of our congregation’s unique core values relating to our mission; and
(3) appointment of task groups relating to legal, property, and practical concerns that affect our decision making.
If we’ll allow it, this process might not only help us make a practical decision, but also to grow deeper in grace together. This is my prayer and I invite you to join me in it over the next four months:
. . . that God would grant us, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner being; so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; and that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).
Grace and peace always,
David B. Humphrey