A Coalition of North Alabama Methodists Working to Stay in the UMC
Stay UMC represents a large group of traditional, centrist, and progressive United Methodists in the North Alabama Conference who love the UMC and believe we are “better together” as we move forward into the future. Our original purpose was to work against the annual conference voting to leave our denomination, should the Protocol for Grace and Reconciliation through Separation pass at General Conference. As this scenario has become less and less likely, we have pivoted into a grass-roots messaging organization of North Alabama United Methodists committed to remaining in the UMC as this season of separatist withdrawal draws closer to its conclusion.
Our friends at the UMsConnected have released a helpful document entitled, “Beginning Again: A Guide for Remaining in the United Methodist Church.” This guide is offered to help you remain United Methodist, and do so with purpose, meaning, and joy. It is designed to be adapted by local churches, small groups, and newly forming faith communities convening after painful disaffiliation processes.
What if your local church has already voted to leave the denomination? You may not wish to leave with them. For those United Methodists who are displaced by a disaffiliating local church, the North Alabama Conference has released information on how to continue your membership in the UMC through connecting with another local church, retaining your membership in the district, and/or being part of a new, fresh expression of the UMC. The Holy Spirit is bringing a number of communities into being!
DID YOUR LOCAL CHURCH GO THROUGH A PAINFUL DISCERNMENT PROCESS ABOUT WHETHER TO STAY IN THE UMC OR DISAFFILIATE? READ THE INFORMATION BELOW.
After General Conference was delayed again until 2024 (due to Covid), and no vote on the Protocol was possible, the Wesleyan Covenant Association announced that their new breakaway denomination, the Global Methodist Church, would be organized without delay. The GMC formed on May 1, 2022.
In the North Alabama Conference, a number of our churches entered the discernment process that the Conference required for those considering disaffiliation. We are delighted that many of these chose to stay in the UMC, though we have nothing against those that did not (we simply believed the annual conference as a whole should not have been forced to go with them). We continue to believe that the laity of local churches deserve to have information that is not unbalanced, biased, or incomplete. As we all look back on this experience, here are a few things you need to know:
- – In October 2022, the North Alabama Conference released an excellent set of FAQ’s that addresses the many questions and myths that had been circulating, and you can find them here.
- – Unfortunately, the number of disaffiliations in the North Alabama Conference amounted to a little more than half of our local churches (though our original estimate of approximately 20% of the UMC’s in the United States disaffiliating tracked as expected). Not surprisingly, the largest number of disaffiliations are among a handful of the annual conferences in the South. Yet the Holy Spirit continues to move in the UMC, and we are excited to be part of God’s future for us. We are reorganizing and moving forward.
- – Stay UMC is a grassroots organization and was not involved in conference administration. However, our annual conference issued with great transparency the official information on the 3-6 month discernment process required by churches who were considering disaffiliation. This process is no longer available to local churches (we are well past the April 1, 2023 deadline to begin). But at Stay UMC, we believe it is important that laity are fully aware in case there are any remaining questions about this process and whether it was followed with transparency and accurate information. You can find a copy of the requirements here.
- – There are still myths about the future of the post-separation UMC being promoted by some of those who have left our denomination (abandoning tenants of historic creeds, disregarding Biblical authority, disavowing the lordship of Christ, ignoring the reality of sin and need for atonement, etc.). These are “straw man” arguments that were purely speculative at best and misleading at worst. At times, an extreme example was cited, if not exaggerated, to reinforce a narrative of biblical infidelity of the whole. Continue to check your facts. The essential doctrines of the UMC have never changed and cannot be changed in the Discipline (they are part of our constitution). Read Steve Harper’s excellent blog post on this subject. See the video of the “Celebrate UMC” event in Montgomery where Rev. Tom Berlin addresses this about 40 minutes into his presentation. Read the bishops’ “Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church” for the Council of Bishops’ vision of what the future of the UMC will look like. Adam Hamilton has released video responses to the Rob Renfroe videos that were widely distributed to unfairly malign the UMC, and you may find them here.
- – Our bishop and her NAC3 team released a number of letters and videos regarding what the UMC will look like moving forward in North Alabama. They cast a vision of local churches being able to self-identify as traditional, centrist, or progressive and network with other churches, and assure us that this will be considered when pastoral appointments are made. Please know that nobody will be telling your local church or your pastor to be something you aren’t. You can find the first letter and video here, the second here, the third here, and the fourth here. You can also find an excellent set of FAQ’s here that will answer most questions and myths.
- – It is now past the April 1, 2023 hard deadline for churches in the North Alabama Conference to enter the discernment process required for a church to disaffiliate from the UMC. The final annual conference for ratifying remaining disaffiliations was held in September of 2023. The disaffiliation process belonged entirely to the conference trustees, as per paragraph 2553 of the Discipline, not the bishop. Our conference trustees are elected by the annual conference. This is addressed in the FAQ’s that you can find here.
Do you need help in discussions with others now that some have left the UMC? Check out these practical strategies.
Please read these important documents:
The Council of Bishop’s Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church.
A recent set of FAQ’s issued by the North Alabama Conference, which addresses many questions and myths.
The letter and video released by the NAC3 team, the second letter and video casting a positive vision, and a third letter and fourth letter with more detail of what the UMC will look like in North Alabama moving forward, as a communion of traditional, centrist, and progressive local churches networking with each other, trusting that their perspectives will be considered when pastoral appointments are made.
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