WHAT IS THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS?
The United Methodist Church is going through some tough times. What has been slowly creeping to the fore over the course of decades has finally bubbled to the surface… an impasse between major factions of United Methodism. This unfortunate set of circumstances leaves every United Methodist Church with a difficult and painful decision… to stay in the UMC or to go to another denomination.
Decisions, of course, take time. And The Harvest has entered a formal time of learning called a “Discernment Process.” It is a time outlined with required mile-markers and recommended activities to help the church learn, grow, pray, and eventually decide what to do for its future.
This page is designed to help provide guidance and a resource for members of The Harvest UMC.
Learning the current landscape and projected trends of the UMC. What is disaffiliation? How does that work? Why is now a unique time in the history of Methodism?
CHURCH-WIDE INFO MEETINGS
- Overview of what’s happening
- How to approach tough discussions
- Understanding the United Methodist Church
- Understanding key events and their aftermath
- What’s next?
- Sunday, August 21, 2022, 11:30 am
- Wednesday, August 31, 2022, 6:30 pm
- Sunday, September 25, 2022, 11:15am – Discernment Town Hall – Presentation PDF
- Sunday, October 16, 2022, 11:15am – Discernment Town Hall
- Sunday, October 23, 2022, 11:15am – Presentation Meeting by The Harvest Leadership Board
- Sunday, October 30, 2022, 11:15am – Church Conference on Sunday
PASTOR BEN MEETINGS
Schedule coffee with the Pastor Ben and ask the hard questions!
These are difficult circumstances that may have painful and personal ramifications. For those who would like to have a more personal conversation about the issues related to the UMC split, The Harvest’s future, or anything else, Pastor Ben is more than willing to schedule some time to meet.
Begin investigating the ramifications of what is happening and the potential options for the future. What is the best next step for The Harvest?
The Harvest Leadership Board voted to enter an official Discernment Process on June 12, 2022.
Entering the Discernment Process does NOT mean The Harvest will be leaving the UMC. It only means we are investigating the options.
A Prayer strategy will be put in place and resources for individual learning will be made available.
Our Leadership Team at The Harvest will investigate the details of all the options.
DISCERNMENT IS A GIFT
Discernment is a spiritual process with roots in Scripture. In the Book of Acts, whenever the early Christian community stepped into a time of prayer and discernment, it always resulted in greater growth and maturity for the Church as well as clarity for its leaders.
Because of this, we know God will do some amazing things through our time of Discernment. We encourage every person connected to The Harvest to begin (1) praying specifically for this process; and (2) reading scripture every day.
At the end of our Discernment Process, our Leadership Team will present investigative findings and suggestions for next steps at a meeting October 23, 2022, 11:30am
Taking the next steps. Discernment will lead to one of two decisions:
- Affirming our connection with the UMC and continuing as a United Methodist Church
- Disaffiliate from the UMC and continue as The Harvest Church
THE BIG “IF”
Going through the Discernment Process in no way commits us to leaving the UMC. It may be that at the end of the process, The Harvest decides to stay in the UMC.
IF – here’s that big IF – The Harvest believes our future is best served in another denomination, then a few things will need to happen to take those steps…
DISAFFILIATION & AFFILIATION
Leaving the UMC is called Disaffiliation. For The Harvest to disaffiliate, two meetings will make it official:
Called Church Conference – 10/30/2022, 11:00 am
2/3 of present and ‘voting eligible’ members of The Harvest is needed to disaffiliate.
Called Meeting of the Texas Annual Conference – 12/3/2022
A simple majority vote by delegates at this call Texas Annual Conference Meeting will make the disaffiliation complete.
If disaffiliation is desired, then steps to affiliate with another denomination will need to be taken as well.
Articles, Videos & Publications
Here are links to some helpful articles, videos, and publications to help get an idea of the issues and conversations happening regarding the future of the UMC. These are in no particular order, and there are references from all points of view.
Frequently Asked Questions from Harvest Members answered by Pastor Ben Lohmer, Sr.
Discernment Prayer Guides
Texas Annual Conference Info – Navigating the Waters Texas Annual Conference Resource Page
Varied Perspectives on the Issues
Descriptive articles about UMC issues
From a Baptist Media Source – “A primer for non-Methodists on the Methodist ties that bind”
Learn about the connectional system of the Church – https://www.umc.org/en/content/organization-church-as-connection
Learn about the Trust Clause – https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-the-united-methodist-trust-clause
Learn about Apportionments – https://www.txcumc.org/apportionments
More about Apportionments – https://www.umc.org/en/content/why-give-to-apportionments-pog
The Time Has Come! By Bishop Bob Hayes
Videos that cover why we are discerning schism
State of the United Methodist Church, by Park Avenue UMC, Georgia. Video provides a helpful overview of the current landscape of UMC split and options ahead.
What’s Next for the UMC? An older video from 2019 that gives good perspective.
Differences that Divide the UMC, 6 Videos, by Rob Renfroe, President of the Good News Movement. Provides brief explanations of differences within the UMC that are causing the fracture.
Part 1: The UMC is Divided and Dividing.
Part 2: Our Differences regarding the Bible.
Part 3: Our Differences regarding Jesus.
Part 4: Our Differences Regarding Sexuality.
Part 6: Where Should We Go?
Positions for Staying in The UMC
Council of Bishops – A Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church
StayUMC Big Concerns Summary, StayUMC advocates for those staying in the UMC, from North Alabama Conference.
Safe Harbor Declaration, Statement to uphold full inclusion of LGBTQIA+, Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
Covenant to Build Beloved Communities, Statement to uphold full inclusion of LGBTQIA+, North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
Diverse and Still United: A Conversation with Adam Hamilton and John Stephens, St John’s UMC, Lubbock. Video interview with pastors who consider themselves Traditionalist and why they are staying in the UMC.
Why I’m Not Leaving the UMC, by Steve West.
4 Reasons I Am Staying UMC, by C. Don Jones.
Articles that speak to the process of impending departures in the UMC.
What Divorce Can Teach the UMC, by Eric Folkerth. Approaching the UMC split through the eyes of Divorce.
Watch Your Language: Of Schism and Mitosis in the United Methodist Church, by Bob Phillips. Preferring the term Mitosis rather than Schism allows the UMC to reframe what is happening with its split.
Positions for Leaving the UMC
A Wesleyan Vision of the Christian Life A vision for the future
What Do United Methodists Believe About the Bible? By David Watson
A Fight for the Faith Delivered Once for All from the former UMC Bishop Mike Lowry
Crossing the Rubicon: A Bishop Says Goodbye to the United Methodist Church, by Bishop Mike Lowry. Bishop Lowry surrenders his UMC credentials in order to join the Global Methodist Church.
The Journey: Exile to Promise, by Erik Grayson. What will it take for Methodism to survive.
Working Hard to Be Better, by Carolyn Moore. Sharing experience of working in Wesleyan Covenant Association and the UMC.
The UMC is More Traditional Now, but It Doesn’t Matter, by Matt O’Reilly. Why Traditionalists are leaving the UMC even though Traditionalists are still the majority in the UMC.
Celebrated United Methodist Drag Queen Activist Denounces the Bible, by Sage Showers.
Divided We Stand: Report on Launch Event for Uniting Methodists, by Sara Anderson. A quick summary and reaction of the Uniting Methodists event.
Centrist Leaders: No More Asbury Grads in Post Separation UMC, by John Lomperis. Shares disturbing comments by ‘Centrist’ leaders.
Centrist Leaders: We Cannot Affiliate with Traditional United Methodists, by John Lomperis. Shares disturbing comments by ‘Centrist’ leaders.
Lesbian Bishop Hopes to Reshape United Methodism for a New Era, by Collin Bastian.
Issues from around the UMC surrounding the split
Standing in the Way of Progress, by Jeremy Rebman. Addressing the controversy of Ordination in the Florida Conference.
North Georgia Ripple Effects, by Warren Lathem. Outlines what has been happening in North Georgia Conference.
Africa Will Remain Committed to the Protocol, by Forbes Matonga. With major signatories withdrawing their support for the “Protocol” – an amicable separation agreement for the UMC – African delegates are not abandoning it.
Information about the Global Methodist Church
Five Lousy Reasons to Align with the Global Methodist Church, by Bob Phillips.
Five Good Reasons to Consider Aligning with the Global Methodist Church, by Bob Phillips.
10 Reasons Why I’ll Join the Global Methodist Church, by Jay Therrell
Frequently Asked Questions
Since 1972, United Methodists have disagreed on whether the practice of homosexuality is contrary to Christian teaching and, more specifically, on whether homosexual persons should be ordained as ministers and married in the church.
The issue was the focus of a Special Session of the General Conference (the global governing body) of the UMC in 2019. At that time, the traditional teaching embodied in our Book of Discipline since 1972 was affirmed. However, the division between United Methodists with traditional or conservative beliefs and United Methodists with progressive or liberal beliefs became clearer and the conflict and disobedience of some leaders intensified.
Several pieces of legislation were proposed after the 2019 General Conference to help the UMC divide gracefully. However, because of the pandemic, the General Conference expected to consider that legislation was postponed in 2020, 2021, and again this year, when it was announced that General Conference would not meet until 2024.
This decision not to hold a General Conference in 2022 has resulted in a number of responses that call for clarity. Several churches in our Annual Conference have already begun the process of discernment to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, according to the Principles of Disaffiliation adopted at our 2020 Session of the Texas Annual Conference.The announcement of the May 1, 2022, launch of the Global Methodist Church has generated increased interest in disaffiliating to this new denomination.
Staying in the UMC means continuing to pay apportionments which last year totaled around $108,000 and this year are just over $104,000 per year. It is not known if the loss of churches disaffiliating with UMC will create a major change in the apportionment formulas.
The cost of departure to exit the UMC is to pay last year and this year’s apportionments (which we have and are on track to do again this year) in addition to the unfunded clergy retirement liability (currently $0 as of 8/1/2022).
7 SIMPLE STEPS
While other approvals may be necessary as well, the following are the minimum requirements for the Texas Annual Conference to approve a local church disaffiliation under the current Book of Discipline:
- First, members of the local church must complete an appropriate process of discernment. The determination of whether a process is appropriate is made by the church’s District Superintendent.
- After the local church nears completion of the process of discernment, the annual conference will calculate apportionment and unfunded pension liability estimates for that local church.
- The local church may vote to move forward with the disaffiliation process. To move forward, disaffiliation must be affirmed by a simple majority (¶2548.2) or a two-thirds majority (¶2553) of a duly called church conference. The Harvest Leadership Board has chosen to use ¶2553 as the goal for planning our discernment process.
- The local church must pay in full the previous year’s apportionments and the current year’s apportionments.
- The local church must pay in full the unfunded pension liability, as calculated by the TAC Board of Pensions in accordance with Wespath’s guidance.
- The valuation is based on a market valuation of unfunded liability.
- The valuation takes in to account the local church’s share of the liability.
- The valuation gives the local church credit for its contributions to the Conference’s pension reserves with credit for earning over time.
- The local church must complete all forms in accordance with GCFA’s disaffiliation guidance.
- After all the foregoing steps have been completed, the TAC may vote to release the local church from any obligations under the trust clause in ¶2503 in accordance with the then applicable Book of Discipline.
- There is a special called Annual Conference on December 3, 2022, to handle disaffiliation requests. To be considered for disaffiliation, any church must pass a resolution via a Church Conference prior to November 10, 2022.
- The planned period of discernment is scheduled to finish prior to this date.
- The discernment period is not addressing the current budget. The Harvest members have been increasing their giving since July 2021 but giving remains lower than pre-COVID shutdowns.
- Pastor Ben has explored the impact of various impacts the discernment process could have at The Harvest. However, The Leadership Board has the authority and responsibility to set the budget according to the priorities of the church and the giving of its members.
The discernment process will focus more on Theological Beliefs and Practices. The Leadership board is tasked with setting the Church’s priorities and budget.
- Currently, status quo will continue as we are a United Methodist Church and follow the written doctrines and polity of the UMC. Therefore, there may not be any change whatsoever. In the event a different affiliation is proposed and passed, The Harvest Church could affiliate with another denomination or move to an independent status as soon as December 3, 2022.
- The day-to-day operations and mission of The Harvest would remain unchanged. The larger difference would be in changes to the budget, and a name change from The Harvest UMC to The Harvest “XXX”?
- In Bishop Scott Jones letter of retirement, he wrote, “Increasing disobedience and escalating conflict in the denomination have made my service as a bishop of the whole church seem much more problematic. My further reflection has led me to believe that my best service to Christ for the next two years is in retirement.”
- There are many pastors and church leaders sharing similar concerns as our Bishop Jones in continuing with the United Methodist Church. It is a distraction to the mission of the church to continue to fight over these different interpretations and practices.
The Harvest UMC has never taken a vote on a matter quite like this, nor has The Harvest focused much teaching or attention on the matters facing the UMC. What is predictable for every church is there will be a loss of members as a vote either way will cement a direction for that church. There are members who have already made known to Pastor Ben about their intentions to stay or go based on the position of The Harvest and/or the United Methodist Church.
First the church must decide whether to disaffiliate from the UMC or not. If that decision is made, there are many options available to The Harvest Church, of which the Global Methodist Church is one.
The Church and Scriptures show us a standard of living that the disciples of Jesus Christ are called to live into as holy people. However, I agree there is discrimination occurring within the LGBTQ+ community and it is not right. Violence, name calling, exclusion from society and other forms of discrimination are wrong and should be challenged by the church in society. We believe in Jesus’ message that God loves everyone, and we affirm that all persons are of sacred worth. We believe that every human being is created and gifted by God; therefore, every human being is invited to be a part of our church.
Yes, he is comfortable discussing his view on this topic and many others. You can set up a meeting with him by scheduling through his assistant, Jen, by emailing email@example.com for an appointment.
- By the numbers, my personal goals for The Harvest connect to the four strategic areas of our strategic plan, Reach, Connect, Grow, Send. While total numbers are important to track and target, the movement of growing disciples of Jesus Christ is where I believe the church should focus.
- Reach – 1,000 new people reached yearly with 8% moving to connect with the church
- Connect – Average Worship Attendance of 500 with 70% involved in Grow Groups
- Grow – 350 in small groups being discipled and raising up leaders sending 70% into Send Ministries
- Send – 245 Volunteers in service to The Harvest, our missions and service
- No plans for new buildings or facilities in the next three years
- There could be potentially many reasons to leave the denomination at this time. With the exit of many traditional churches that have voted to retain the status quo regarding the denominations Book of Discipline, there is a perceived opportunity for changes to these theological positions in the next General Conference in 2024.
- Other motivations could be financial, since almost any change from the UMC would reduce our connectional spending by 50% or more per year.
- Genesis 19:1-13 (in particular verse 4-7)
4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” 6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing.
- Leviticus 18:22 The NIV translation of this verse reads: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.”
- Romans 1:26-27 – “26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”
- 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11 The NIV translations of these verses read, respectively: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men . . .“ and “We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, . . .”
- Some Scholars say the words translated as “homosexuals” and “men who have sex with men” more accurately translate to “men who sleep with enslaved male prostitutes”. The word “homosexual” is not found in the Bible in translations written prior to 1948, implying that it was likely added as a result of the translators’ own prejudices.
- Matthew 19:4 – 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” In the same section, in verse 12, Jesus says, “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Referring to living in singleness.
- Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”
- Some Scholars interpret the word translated as “clothing” here, keli, is translated elsewhere as “armor”, and the word translated as “man”, geber, actually means “warrior”. This implies a prohibition against intent to deceive by pretending to be a warrior, or for a warrior to deceive by disguising himself as a woman.
The arguments for change have been ongoing for the last 50 years in the UMC.
There is potential for a vote to occur, but only a vote to leave which will pass or fail. We will stay UMC unless we vote to leave.
Pastor Ben has put together a team to research and share the current state of the UMC, what the UMC currently does for The Harvest, and the theological leanings of The Harvest. A webpage is being created to disseminate information from this group to educate, inform, and prepare The Harvest members should there be a vote called in the future.
Currently, there is no expectation of a vote. However, there are deadlines for disaffiliation requests of November 10, 2022, and an expiration date of December 31, 2023, on the exit paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline.
Only members of The Harvest get to vote at a church conference. If you have a question about whether you are a current member of The Harvest, please inquire by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to verify your membership status.
- Depending on the paragraph we might use in the Book of Discipline, for paragraph 2548.2 it is 50% of the Leadership Board (Church Council) and for paragraph 2553 it is 2/3s at a church conference (members only vote).
- The Judicial Council is reviewing paragraph 2548.2 as a means for disaffiliation due to theological differences.
- At this time, we are proceeding with the discernment process but will plan on using paragraph 2553 requiring a 2/3s vote at a church conference as it is not under judicial review.
The ad hoc committee will be presenting more information on the pros and cons of staying with the UMC.
The ad hoc committee will be presenting more information on the pros and cons of leaving the UMC.
- Association of Independent Methodists*
- Bible Methodist Connection of Churches*
- Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Church of the Nazarene
- Congregational Methodist Church*
- Evangelical Methodist Church*
- Evangelical Methodist Church Conference*
- Evangelical Wesleyan Church*
- Free Methodist Church
- Fundamental Methodist Conference*
- Global Methodist Church*
- Methodist Protestant Church*
- Missionary Methodist Church*
- National Association of Wesleyan Evangelicals*
- Southern Methodist Church*
- United Methodist Church, United States
- Wesleyan Church
The Harvest Clergy will have to discern for themselves if they are staying UMC or transferring their credentials to a different denomination. It is still unknown the full impact of departure on a departing clergy person. Areas of concern would be benefits like health and retirement, credentials, security, and support.
In many ways, this is the issue before the church and clergy. “There are processes for addressing clergy and congregations and bishops when they violate the rules of our Book of Discipline. However, much of our Book of Discipline is a statement of covenant with the expectation that it will be followed. Addressing the unwillingness of persons to follow the disciplinary processes of the Book of Discipline has revealed some holes in accountability.”
There seems to be consensus around a more progressive position on many issues as there could be a shift in the majority of delegates at the 2024 General Conference.
It is difficult to predict what will be changed at the 2024 General Conference. Some believe the change will be a local church option where local pastors and local churches make the decision as to what they are willing to perform. A requirement to perform same sex marriages would be difficult to pass at a general conference for many reasons, but not impossible.
It really depends on what, if any, changes occur at the 2024 General Conference