STATEMENT FROM STAY UMC
On Saturday, December 10, 2022, the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church ratified the disaffiliations of 198 of our 638 local churches. We shared communion and sent forth in peace the disaffiliating pastors and lay members. The remaining majority of North Alabama Conference clergy and lay members then began the process of healing hearts, imagining our future, and commissioning those who will give birth to new churches and fresh expressions of the UMC in our conference. We are moving forward with conviction and grace.
Stay UMC is a grassroots movement of several hundred traditional, progressive, and centrist pastors and laity in the North Alabama Conference. We originally organized to protect our conference as a whole from being absorbed into a new breakaway denomination by those who wish to leave the UMC. When conference-wide disaffiliation was no longer a possibility, we pivoted. We care about our churches and have worked hard to provide balanced information to those in discernment processes.
We sincerely want the best for those who wish to leave the UMC. In order for all of us to find healing, however, it is important to be honest, speaking the truth in love.
We rise to speak frankly about this schism and the costs exacted upon us all. We lament some local churches were made the site of bitter fights rather than being shepherded through conversations that deepen understanding. We lament that at times, instead of relying on common values to do the work of discernment, cues were taken from a polarized society, and outrage was stoked to pave the way for disaffiliation. We lament some are departing because they believe rules were broken in far off places, while ignoring the reality that rules were adhered to by their companions in North Alabama.
We lament that the UMC was maligned by some as being unorthodox and accommodating to culture, and misinformation was spread freely about the future of the United Methodist Church’s essential doctrines. We lament that our “Big Tent” spirit was mistaken by some, perhaps intentionally, for lack of conviction and that speculative and misleading narratives about the future United Methodist Church were used to set Methodist against Methodist, damaging our witness in the world.
We lament that, in some situations, it seems clear the motivation for disaffiliation was driven by decisions about property, money, and control instead of a complaint against our annual conference’s actual practices, the sole justification specified in paragraph 2553 for disaffiliation.
We lament the reports of some of our laity who experienced bullying, fear-mongering, and half-truths that lead congregation members astray. We lament the harm done to our witness in the world when people demand punitive measures against those with whom they disagree instead of attempting to resolve our differences with grace and mercy.
Most of all, we lament the pain this process has inflicted on LGBTQ communities and their loved ones in a number of our churches.
We lament because we are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God. We will continue to live into that God-powered gospel vision. We lament that straw-man arguments and isolated or exaggerated anecdotes were used to turn hearts and sentiments against the United Methodist Church, which has a robust vision of making disciples. We do not believe that those who are leaving the denomination are in a season of standing and contending for the historic faith that has been professed for 2,000 years, as they claim. For us, following the example and calling of Jesus to love one another in the midst of diverse opinions, and cooperating with God’s grace to all who are drawn to Christ, is indeed contending for the historic faith.
Nevertheless, we yearn for those seceding from the United Methodist Church to return one day and live into this vision with the main body of the church. In the meantime, we send you with love and hope for the very best for you.
We lament also what this season has done to our own souls. For in defending our great church from harm, we have also allowed frustration take its toll on us.
May the God who is bigger than all our division do something with this mess we make of ourselves. And may God equip us to live into the best days of the United Methodist Church.