Discernment

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. --Romans 12:2 (NRSV)

May 17, 2023

 

First United Methodist Church
Rev. Allen Carson
PO Box 518
Durant OK 74702

 

RE: A special session of the Church Conference of First United Methodist Church on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. for the purpose of receiving information from the Oklahoma Annual Conference.

 

Greetings in the name and power of Jesus Christ!

 

The leadership of First United Methodist Church has communicated a desire to consider the possibility of disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church (“UMC”). Such a serious decision requires prayerful and careful preparation. To provide the membership of your church with information from the OK Annual Conference of the UMC addressing many important implications of disaffiliation and to respond to your questions, I am calling a special session of the Church Conference on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. Church Conferences are called to have broad participation of the members of the congregation and every effort should be taken to provide proper notice of this church conference to all professing members and to the retired clergy who hold their charge conference at First United Methodist Church, in accordance with ¶ 246.8 and ¶ 248 of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016.

 

Receiving information from various sources is part of the discernment process. I will officiate the Church Conference and have invited Bishop Nunn and Rev. Tish Malloy, Director of Transitional Ministries for the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the UMC, to make presentations. A vote on disaffiliation will not be taken at this meeting.

 

The Agenda is:

 

Welcome, Introductions, and Prayer                                                                    Rev. Allen Carson

Purpose of the Church Conference                                                                        Rev. John Breon

Nomination and Election of the Secretary                                                                       Rev. Breon

Oklahoma Annual Conference Information                              Bishop Nunn and Rev. Tish Malloy

Responses to Written Questions                                        Bishop Nunn, Rev. Malloy & Rev. Breon

Closing Comments and Prayer                                                                                      Rev. Breon

 

As stated above, the purpose of this meeting is to receive information from representatives of the OK Annual Conference. There will not be an open mic for questions, but we will respond to written questions submitted on the form provided at the Church Conference. I trust that the members of First United Methodist Church will come to this Church Conference with open hearts and minds to receive information for prayerful consideration and trust they will reflect Christian love, grace and respect during this time together. This will not be a time to make speeches or argue for or against disaffiliation.

 

Following this Informational Church Conference and the church’s further discernment, if the Church Council determines that the church should vote on whether or not to disaffiliate, the Church Council will study the requirements of the “Disaffiliation Agreement” (available at www.okumc.org/transitionalministry) and determine the appropriate language required for the vote under that agreement (see page 1 of the Disaffiliation Agreement). The Council Chair and the pastor will then request in writing that the District Superintendent hold a Church Conference for a vote on disaffiliation, for one or more of the reasons of conscience (stating that reason using the exact language provided in the Disaffiliation Agreement). If a written request as described above is submitted by the Council Chair and the pastor, I will issue a written letter to call and set the Church Conference for a vote and to describe the requirements and expectations for the Church Conference.

 

In order to be considered for ratification at the October 13, 2023 Special Session of the OK Annual Conference, all Church Conferences to vote on disaffiliation must be held on or before September 6, 2023. If a church votes to disaffiliate and fulfills all the requirements of the Disaffiliation Agreement, their request will be on the agenda of the October 13, 2023 meeting of the OK Annual Conference for a vote on ratification.

 

Please let me know if you have any questions about this process.

 

Grace and peace,

 

John Breon
Lake Country District Superintendent
Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

On February 5th, the FUMC Durant-Caddo Leadership Team voted to enter the discernment phase of the disaffiliation process as laid out by the Oklahoma Annual Conference Trustees. During this period of discernment, our congregation will seek spiritual guidance, understanding and wisdom before making any decisions affecting the future of our local church. To facilitate this process, eight church members were selected by the FUMC Leadership Board to form a Holy Conversations Team (HCT). The HCT has organized a series of meetings called “Holy Conversations” to share information related to the disaffiliation process and gather input from church members. The timeline of events below may help provide an overview of how the UMC has reached this stage in its history.

What is the basis of the division in the UMC?

United Methodists have been more-or-less civilly disagreeing about LGBTQ inclusion, particularly as it relates to clergy officiating at same-sex marriages and the ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals, since the 1970s, but the issue came to a head in 2016.

 

1972

At the 1972 General Conference, a statement affirming that homosexual individuals are people of sacred worth, welcome in the fellowship of the church, and persons whose rights should be protected was approved for inclusion in the Book of Discipline with the addition of the phrase “though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.”

 

Every four years since then, delegates at General Conference have proposed modifications or the elimination of the Discipline’s statement on the practice of homosexuality and LGBTQ clergy.

2016

(May) By the time the General Conference was held in 2016, the division between those who supported full inclusion of LGBTQ persons and those who opposed this was more pronounced. The UMC seemed ready for a schism. At the urging of conference delegates, the bishops ultimately formed a “Commission on a Way Forward” to examine all church law dealing with human sexuality and present different options for moving forward to a specially called General Conference held in 2019.

(July) Before the Commission could present proposals to address the growing conflict over the church’s stance on human sexuality, the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected the first openly lesbian bishop. Although in direct violation of the Book of Discipline’s banning “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination, the then President of the UMC Council of Bishops stated that the Council did not have the constitutional authority to intervene. Even before the 2016 General Conference, many clergy came out as gay while several annual conferences in the Western and Northeastern United States passed resolutions not to enforce church laws seen to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The election of a practicing homosexual as a bishop in the UMC and the lack of any repercussions from the Council of Bishops changed the outlook for the future in the eyes of many evangelicals and traditionalists.

2019

At a special session of the General Conference in 2019, the Commission on a Way Forward, presented three possibilities known as the One Church Plan, the Connectional Plan, and the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan — which enhanced current policies in the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (BOD) regarding homosexuality and strengthened enforcement including mandatory penalties — was narrowly approved. A key piece of the Traditional Plan which allowed progressive annual conferences and local churches to freely exit, failed to make it to the floor for a vote.

However, delegates did approve the addition of a new paragraph to the United Methodist Book of Discipline. Paragraph 2553 was added to allow congregations that disagreed with keeping the ban on openly gay clergy and same-sex marriage to disaffiliate from the denomination and keep their church property.

Following the 2019 General Conference many clergy, laity, congregations, and UMC institutions continued to resist the outcome of upholding the ban on openly gay clergy and same-sex marriage. Multiple annual conferences passed resolutions seeking to bypass the General Conference’s decision.

 

 

2020 - 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the 2020 General Conference being postponed until 2021. Then in 2021, the conference was postponed again until 2022. In early 2022, the Commission on General Conference citing difficulties in travel and vaccines for overseas delegates, decided to postpone the General Conference once again till 2024. Following this announcement, more traditional congregations frustrated with the continuing and increasingly contentious denominational debate, started making plans to leave the UMC using Paragraph 2553 to disaffiliate. The launch of the Global Methodist Church in May 2022 also served as a catalyst for many UMC churches to leave who agreed with the tenets of the newly formed denomination.

2023

Media coverage of the current division within the UMC has increased with articles and editorials on reasons to stay with the UMC as well as reasons to leave the denomination. Some annual conference’s Boards of Trustees have set additional financial requirements for churches to disaffiliate; the Oklahoma Conference has continued with the requirement of two years of apportionments and the church’s share of pension liability. At least one annual conference has paused all disaffiliations until the General Conference in 2024. The Oklahoma annual conference asked two churches in Oklahoma City to postpone their vote after learning their congregations were likely to vote for disaffiliation.

As many progressive and centrist congregations advocate for inclusion and a “big tent” approach to welcome those from socially and culturally diverse backgrounds, many traditional congregations are looking for a way forward using Paragraph 2553 to leave the UMC. Some feel a sense of urgency to disaffiliate now, because the provisions of Paragraph 2553 will expire December 31, 2023.

Resource materials and news articles regarding the United Methodist Church can be found through links posted on this webpage, or doing your own research on the internet. In an effort to present differing viewpoints, the HCT has shared information that may be biased in favor of or against local church disaffiliation. It is important for the discernment process that members are well-informed and knowledgeable about ideas/events they agree with as well as ideas/events that they oppose. As much as possible, the HCT has also sought to provide information that explains the denominational division without partiality.

 


April 27, 2023

The HCT appreciates all the efforts of our members and congregation to stay informed during this discernment process. Our church has had two productive and informative meetings and after much discussion, the HCT has decided there is no benefit to the congregation in holding a third Holy Conversations meeting. The HCT believes there are ample alternative ways for our church to stay informed on important information and upcoming dates as we proceed through this process. The Holy Conversations meeting #3 originally scheduled for Sunday, May 21, 2023 has been cancelled.

After careful consideration and deliberation, the HCT submitted their official recommendation to the church Leadership Team on Monday, April 24, 2023, that FUMC-Durant/Caddo proceed with a membership vote regarding disaffiliation from the UMC. The Leadership Team voted unanimously to accept the HCT's recommendation and move forward with the next steps.

As part of discernment, a Church Conference is required for the purpose of receiving information from the Annual Conference about the voting requirements and other disaffiliation processes. FUMC Durant-Caddo will hold their Church Conference on Saturday, June 17, 2023 at 10:00 AM in the Durant FUMC sanctuary. This meeting will be led by the District Superintendent and the Oklahoma Office of Transitional Ministries.

On Sunday, August 13, 2023, the official vote regarding whether or not FUMC Durant-Caddo will disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church will be held in the FUMC Durant sanctuary. The voting process will be managed by the District Office. The decision to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church must be approved by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of the professing members of the local church present at the church conference. More general information on voting procedures for disaffiliation from the UMC may be found here:

https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-is-the-umc-really-part-11

If you have any questions, please send them to the church office. The recording of the Holy Conversations meeting #2 is posted on the Discernment page of the church website. The HCT will continue to post questions and answers on the church website discernment page as they are received. We encourage everyone to pray for our church and each other during these challenging and uncertain times.

Sincerely,

Holy Conversations Team

 


 

 

Holy Conversations Meeting #1 - Slide Presentation

 

You may view the meeting slide show here.

Holy Conversation Meeting #2


  • I know that I will not be in Durant in June or July when voting occurs. Will I be able to vote?

  • If we vote to disaffiliate we will lose our pastor. What immediate plans would there be for a pastor? How long would this take?

  • What is meant by "progressive theologyā€¯ as it relates to God, Jesus, Definition of Family, Marriage, Children, and as these relate to traditional Biblical representation of the same?

  • Why did the Arkansas Annual Conference veto the disaffiliation of three UMCs in their state? What has happened with Asbury church in Tulsa since their disaffiliation?

  • Will our local church be independent or are we considering joining another denomination?

  • Is the survey anonymous?

  • How many churches have disaffiliated in each of the five UMC jurisdictions and how many churches were in each jurisdiction before the disaffiliations?

  • If the church disaffiliated from the UMC, where would tithes go? Which national, local or global funds would receive funding from the church and how much?

  • Are openly homosexual persons allowed to be members of UMC?

  • What happens to the 3.5 million dollars in assets owned by the local church?

  • How is it proposed we pay the $165,000?

  • Where in the Book of Discipline are the statements regarding human sexuality?

  • If we vote to leave the UMC, what steps must we go through?

  • Will we conduct a straw vote before a decision is made?

  • What will happen to our Pastor and all our staff if our church disaffiliates? What will happen to our Pastor and all our staff if our church stays United Methodist?

  • I will stay United Methodist regardless if FUMC Durant-Caddo stays or leaves the UMC. If the membership votes to leave, where will I worship?

  • Is the next General Conference likely to broaden the definition of family?

  • My beliefs are biblical and traditional. If we stay with the UMC, won't our beliefs become more and more liberal?

  • I want my theology to be bible-based. How can I keep this church bible-based?

  • Since voting to disaffiliate, has the total membership in the disaffiliated congregations increased or decreased compared to the total membership of the previously UMC affiliated congregations? Has the monthly revenue received from the members of disaffiliated congregations increased or decreased compared to the monthly revenue received from the members of the previously UMC affiliated congregations? Has the number of ministry programs supported directly by disaffiliated congregations increased or decreased compared to the number of ministry programs supported directly by the previously UMC affiliated congregations? Of those congregations who voted to disaffiliate, how many of those congregations have decided to remain independent and how many of those congregations have decided to affiliate with another denomination? Of those who have decided to affiliate with another denomination, how many of them have decided to affiliate with another denomination and with what denominations have they decided to affiliate?

  • If the Durant church votes on disaffiliation, will the Caddo location vote separately?

Church Court Clarifies Disaffiliation Rules

The United Methodist Judicial Council has released six decisions dealing with Paragraph 2553, a new church law that allows congregations to leave with property under limited conditions. The rulings all stem from questions raised during the 2020 and 2021

Letter from Bishop Nunn 03/02/2023

Latest update from Bishop Nunn

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