By Shannon W. Martin
It’s the last thing anyone wanted, but United Methodist Churches across the country are asking: Do we remain in the United Methodist Church, or disaffiliate into another denomination?
In response to the denomination’s changing landscape, Bishop Scott J. Jones has announced a
Special Session for the Texas Annual Conference to be held December 3, 2022, from 9 a.m. to noon, at Houston’s First Methodist Houston West. The agenda of the conference will be limited to matters named in the call. It will include final approval for churches that have met the requirement for disaffiliation.
Bishop Jones recounted that it’s the national church’s disobedience to the Book of Discipline that has these churches turning their attention to disaffiliation.
“The immediate split before us is because of the disobedience of bishops, clergy and conferences in the national Church,” he said. He went on to say that he is grateful there has not been disobedience to the Book of Discipline in the Texas Annual Conference up to this point.
“We are facing a difficult time as a denomination, and it is breaking my heart,” Bishop Jones said at a recent Future Discernment Task Force (FDTF) meeting. “When I became a bishop 18 years ago, my goal was to focus on growing and strengthening the United Methodist Church, starting new congregations, inviting people to become Christians, and addressing important social justice issues,” he said.
Instead, more than 216 churches in the Texas Annual Conference are in a deep time of discernment and prayer about whether to stay in the United Methodist Church, disaffiliate to another denomination like the Global Methodist Church, or explore other options.
“Part of the discernment process is learning about what the options are to make an informed decision, said the Rev. Kip Gilts, convener of the FDTF. So, our team has been gathering information from experts here in the Texas Annual Conference to educate laity and clergy on denominational options.”
Gilts went on to say that so far, the participants have been interested in hearing what the future of the United Methodist Church looks like and to get more information on disaffiliation.
Meetings at district locations
To learn more about the decision making process for the future of the church, meetings are being hosted in each district by the FDTF, followed by a Q&A. Some 2,800 church leaders have attended the first five meetings and have participated in the Q&A, which can be found on the conference webpage and updated frequently here. Gilts encouraged church leadership to attend one of the five remaining FDTF meetings.
The top priority of these meetings, Gilts explained, is creating a platform for conversation and a time for questions to be answered. “There will be many voices in the room, and this is an opportunity for holy discussion as church family,” he said.