DISCERNING OUR FUTURE 
 
NOTE: From September through November 2022 our congregation is undertaking 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 a congregational letter from Pastor Dave and an outline of the process.
 
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
 
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.  
 
 
The Background
 
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.    
 
 
The Process
 
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.
 
 
The Prayer
 
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,
 
Dave
 
David B. Humphrey
Pastor
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