1. What is going on in the United Methodist Church?
The UMC has been struggling for years with issues that address human sexuality. Different churches in the UMC hold competing beliefs and have not yet found common ground. While the current Book of Discipline prohibits same sex marriages at UMC churches or by UMC pastors, a number of churches and pastors have chosen to break the rules. A group of churches in the UMC that hold traditional beliefs about human sexuality have been trying and failing for years to get all churches to follow the rules. They recently decided it is in everyone’s best interest if they leave the denomination and form the Global Methodist Church rather than continuing to argue over this issue.
2. I have heard some unbelievable things about the UMC. Are they true?
There are widespread accusations that the UMC is going to transition into an extremely progressive denomination that is about to alter its doctrine to deny the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or salvation through Christ alone. This is absolute nonsense. While the UMC contains churches that hold both traditional and progressive beliefs, the denomination is made up of mostly traditional churches. This will not change dramatically even after some traditional churches leave to join the GMC.
3. So what is the real issue?
The churches leaving the UMC do not feel comfortable being in a denomination with other churches that support same sex marriage. Their traditional beliefs do not allow them to be in a connectional ministry with other churches who do not adhere to their traditional views of the scriptures.
4. How does this affect Salem?
A number of respected long-time members are concerned with the current state of the UMC, are unhappy that the UMC is not more fully embracing the traditional views of the scripture, and believe that Salem would be better served by a different denomination. The Church Council is investigating to see if this might be true.
5. What is Disaffiliation?
Disaffiliation is the process of leaving the United Methodist Church denomination. There are some very specific rules, financial impacts and time constraints in place if Salem should choose to disaffiliate now. So if Salem should decide to leave the UMC, it will take some effort. Additionally, disaffiliation removes Salem from the UMC, but will not join us to a new denomination. That requires another step.
6. What are some of the requirements to disaffiliate?
To disaffiliate, we have to request and hold a church wide vote of the members by March 1, 2023. Two thirds of the members in attendance for the vote have to vote to disaffiliate. We will need to pay the UMC approximately $127,000 before disaffiliation can be completed. We will need to set up our own non-profit organization and the deeds to the property will be transferred to this organization. All signage and stationary that use the UMC logo (cross and flame) will need to be removed. The process must be completed by December 31, 2023.
7. What happens to my membership?
If two thirds of the members vote to disaffiliate, all of Salem’s members will be removed from the rolls of the UMC regardless of how they vote, unless they decide to join another UMC church and transfer their membership. If Salem joins another denomination, some sort of church-wide vote would be needed, then potentially all current members of Salem would transfer to that new denomination regardless of how they vote. It is possible that Salem would become an independent church, in which case we would need to define the rules for membership ourselves.
8. Where are we now in the process?
Right now, there is a Church Council meeting scheduled for November 6th where we will decide the next actions to take. In order to hold a church-wide vote on disaffiliation, the Church Council must send a letter to the District Superintendent telling her of our desire to disaffiliate. The Church Council will review information provided by the disaffiliation proponents and decide if a church-wide vote is warranted. The letter we are required to send the D.S. has some very specific requirements that we must meet in order to start the process of disaffiliation.
9. What happens next?
If the Church Council votes to send a letter requesting disaffiliation to the D.S., then there are several steps that must happen before the church-wide vote. It is possible that the D.S. will decide that Salem doesn’t meet the requirements to disaffiliate and decline to schedule a vote. Assuming we move forward to a vote, the Church Council will lead an effort to inform all the members about the vote and the options available to them. Decisions also have to be made on where to go if we vote to leave the UMC.
10. Tell me about the voting process.
The vote will be an in-person vote where all members of Salem in good standing are invited. Only members are allowed to vote. The date will be selected by the D.S., but will have to occur before March 1, 2023. The wording of the ballot will be very specific and ask if the member votes to disaffiliate from the denomination for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues. Two thirds of the members present must vote to disaffiliate or Salem remains part of the UMC. Another vote may also be held at the same meeting to join another denomination, but that has not been decided.
11. How will I be kept informed?
We will be using the church website, the church Facebook page, the bulletin, the newsletter and the phone tree to keep everyone informed on important events, dates, and learning opportunities.