Five home meetings with 167 attendees from various Sunday classes and a meeting with 40 youth were held in September and October. The nature of the discussions was different in the classes with younger members, who had more questions about the need for change and about where we would go if we left the UMC. They were quite interested in doing their own investigation about this and other questions. We will be loading onto the church website, links and other information to allow anyone who is interested an opportunity to conduct research. There was a feeling among some that the decision had already been made and there was unnecessary pressure on the rest of the church do to this now instead of taking our time and allowing everyone to feel a part of the process. We assured them that we will provide adequate time for them to be a part of the process.
The straw poll taken in the groups demonstrates that more than the necessary 2/3rds vote to disaffiliate could likely be achieved provided that:
- We provide the answers to questions that were posed
- We provide links and information for people to do their own research
- We provide the time for the above
- The conference continues to make the process more affordable and friendly (Plan A) or,
- We make a convincing proposal for disaffiliation through another avenue (Plan B)
If Plan B is proposed, a church vote is not necessarily required and no arbitrary dates or edicts apply. Some expressed concern over the statement that the conference needed to be included in the Plan A vote.
We were also part of a small group of traditional church leaders invited to meet with the North Texas Conference Office about a friendlier disaffiliation process. In that meeting, the conference lowered the cost of the unfunded pension liability by 43% (using conference pension reserves to do so). They also said that churches who left as soon as possible after the annual conference vote (three weeks after conference or about July 1st) could reduce the apportionment payments by 6 months. This would mean paying 18 months instead of 24 months of apportionments prior to leaving. Our response was to thank them for this and we asked them to continue attempting to get the exit costs down to zero (as it is in neighboring conferences).
Last week, St Andrew UMC in Plano announced that it is leaving the UMC. It is not doing so through the disaffiliation plan of the conference and will become an independent Methodist Church. This may offer us a plan B alternative if needed.
So what now?
The plan at this time is to continue to work under the conference plan for disaffiliation—as long as it provides us a fair exit from the conference. They have made strides in this direction, but we believe they need to make more. We are still working under the timelines that were given to us in writing (even though some churches appear to be working under different timelines). We are seeking clarity on this and other rules that seem to be evolving as well.
We will offer educational meetings for members interested in knowing more about the items most discussed in the town hall home meetings. These will include
- discussions on where we might go with pros and cons of each,
- the process of disaffiliation with definition of terms and the structure of the denomination.
- Other topics could include open questions and answers, and
- what it might look like in the UMC after disaffiliation.
We must request before the end of the year that the DS schedule a church conference. This conference is to be scheduled within 120 days. Prior to the date of the church conference, we will need to make a final decision as to whether we wish to disaffiliate under the conference plan. We will likely go through with this church conference in the spring, provided that we feel the church will accept the then-current terms offered by the conference. If not, we may consider disaffiliation under our other terms.
The time between now and the decision point will allow us to: a.) educate our congregation on the questions they have asked, and b.) give the maximum amount of time possible to get the friendliest terms.