Practical Strategies for Discussions with Others

Unfortunately, many of the churches in the North Alabama Conference disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church. Yet the large group of us who stayed UMC are excited about moving forward with God. For those laity and pastors in churches who stayed United Methodist, it can be a demoralizing experience to continue to encounter misinformation. Below is a list of strategies to help you in discussions with others.

Understand that there was a REQUIRED discernment process for churches considering disaffiliation.

Stay UMC is a grassroots organization and was not involved in conference administration. However, the bishop and cabinet published detailed guidelines required by our North Alabama Conference to ensure that churches took a thoughtful, prayerful, and balanced approach to the consequential decision to disaffiliate from the UMC. The policy was designed to make the process fair and transparent. If you encounter misinformation continuing to be spread by those who left the denomination, it would be good to be familiar with the guidelines in order to be a vocal advocate in case of any misunderstanding.

Understand that a 66.7% vote of your entire congregation was required to leave the United Methodist Church.

The newly added paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline says “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.” A church conference is the entire membership of a church. For many congregations, this was not an easy threshold to reach and while most churches did not, there were a number who had close votes. In some cases, a minority group left the church to start another church. Understanding this will help clear up any misinformation.

Be a watchdog for continued misinformation, omissions, and mischaracterizations.

During the discernment processes, many WCA/GMC leaders shared talking points designed to portray the remaining UMC as engaging in theological drift by abandoning Biblical authority, questioning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, forsaking our doctrinal standards, promoting an open canon, and other similar things. These are “strawman arguments” typically based on some extreme anecdote. We recommend the following engagement strategies when/if this continues to be encountered:

– Ask those who assert such things for specific examples in the North Alabama Conference of such things.

– When single instances are cited, point out that one cannot represent the part for the whole. All institutions have people on the extreme ends.

– Watch a select portion of Tom Berlin’s “Celebrate UMC” presentation where he refutes such claims directly. Video here (starts at 40 minutes into presentation):

– Read this blog post by long time Asbury Spiritual Formation and Wesleyan Studies professor, Steve Harper.

– Print and distribute this side-by-side comparison of the UMC and future GMC which was developed by the Texas Annual Conference Future Discernment Team. It clears up some myths about the post-separation UMC and highlights some important differences laity need to be aware of.

– Use the opportunity to ask for a different perspective to be considered.

Use your voice to keep your church excited about continuing as a UMC.

It is easy to get discouraged after a difficult experience, but many churches are reporting “times of refreshing,” new members, and positive energy after the dust settled from a discernment process. There are also new churches popping up where a majority chose to disaffiliate, and there are many signs of new life as we move forward in the North Alabama Conference. Our most recent annual conference session was a breath of fresh air! Continue to be a cheerleader for the UMC. There are so many ways we are “better together.” There are also probably real people in the families of your church that feel relieved that the church will continue to be diverse and open minded, and they need you to be their advocate. This is a great time for visioning processes and new projects.

Understand that a new bishop is coming to North Alabama.

– We will most likely receive a new presiding bishop in September of 2024. However, our annual conference policies and processes on disaffiliations will not change with new leadership. The NAC3 team has been clear that these agreed-upon processes belonged to the conference trustees, who are elected by the annual conference and represent diverse points of view. A bishop has only one vote on these matters. In any case, the deadline for disaffiliations under par. 2553 has now expired. Our trustees have assured the churches of the annual conference that there will always be, as there always have been, methods by which a church could choose to disaffiliate from the UMC, if they were ever convicted about the need to do so.

Communicate the NAC3 plan.

Take time to watch and read information about the Conference’s NAC3 team, designed to help make space for traditionalists, centrists, and progressives in the continuing United Methodist Church. A commitment has been made by this team to honor and respect differing theological convictions of congregations and pastors in the continuing United Methodist Church, including in the appointment process. You can learn more about the NAC3 team and plan here: and watch their video below:

Highlight the shared moments of meaning in your church’s history that connect to the United Methodist Church.

Your church likely has a rich history in its connection to the United Methodist Church. Take time to review all that we’ve done together in the North Alabama Conference. Spend time asking others in your church about milestones, shared moments of mission, and more that have been part of their legacy.