April 10, 2019
Rev. William C. Bills
On Sunday, April 28, a town hall meeting will be held right after the choir-led worship service. The town hall meeting is being convened by the Policy Governance Board. The purpose of the meeting is to share information with the congregation about our new denominational rules that went into effect at the end of the recent special General Conference. The Judicial Council will meet April 23-26 to rule on the constitutionality of the new rules. The Judicial Council’s declarations should give us some clarity about how we might proceed.
A three-page summary of the conference actions will be given to anyone who wants one. This summary will include a brief description of the new rules, the penalties for churches and clergy that fail to comply with the new rules, and possible actions we might take in the coming months. Here are some examples of how we might choose to proceed:
We could do nothing. We are a United Methodist Church, and the General Conference enacted new rules for the denomination. We can simply accept the new rules and abide by them, even if we disagree with them.
We could resist. This might include withholding payments to the conference and the general church for special offerings and/or ministry shares. We might actively protest, write letters, etc. We might enact a policy of performing same-sex marriages in our church. This would include accepting any penalties the denomination chooses to impose on us. Penalties could include suspending the pastor or closing our church. We could disaffiliate. This would be mean becoming independent or joining another denomination. This would require negotiations with the conference and payment of at least $150,000 to the conference plus legal fees. Disaffiliation requires a 75% vote of church members at church conference. We could network with organizations and people working to form a new Methodist denomination. Options in this category are not yet clear. We could just wait and see what happens. The approved disaffiliation plan is in place until 2023. There is time to wait and see how things go.
No voting will occur at the town hall meeting on April 28th. A survey will be distributed, though, so that you can offer the Policy Governance Board your feedback. It is important that we receive your feedback. Bishop Bard has indicated his desire to poll churches at the Michigan Annual Conference in May. He wants to know how many congregations might choose disaffiliation. Our delegates to the Annual Conference will be at the town hall meeting. They will be given the survey results so that they can represent us adequately. Another town hall meeting will be scheduled after the Annual Conference in May. There will also be opportunities in the summer and fall for more discussion and input before any formal votes are taken.