A Period of Discernment

Posted By ADMIN on Jul 6, 2022 |

From Pastor Jacob to the FUMC Jasper Family, a message of great importance to every member of our congregation.

A Period of Discernment

Over the past several years the United Methodist Church has been debating issues related to human sexuality, same-sex marriage, and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.  Currently the UMC does not allow same-sex marriage or ordain “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” to be clergy in the Church.  While the Church has not changed its stance on these issues, the General Conference has regularly debated these issues with increasing division arising in the Church.  In 2019, a special General Conference was held to consider the matter and a possible restructuring of the Church to allow for more local autonomy on these issues.  The 2019 Conference voted to affirm and maintain the Church’s stance.  Additionally, the Conference approved a method for local churches to disaffiliate from the UMC and join a different denomination.

In response to the 2019 Conference, many local churches, annual and jurisdictional conferences, clergy, and bishops have begun actively disobeying the Book of Discipline on the matters of same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.  Church trials, which serve to enforce the Book of Discipline, have also been largely suspended for the time being.  There are many in the UMC who believe their principled disobedience to the Book of Discipline is necessary to bring about change in the Church.

In response to this development, in 2020, a group of leaders representing the full spectrum of beliefs on theses issues met and developed a protocol for separation which would allow the formation of a new Methodist denomination which affirms the traditional stance on same-sex marriage and human sexuality.  This protocol was set to be approved at the 2020 General Conference that was subsequently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  With continued concerns related to COVID-19, the General Conference will not meet again until May of 2024.

Since that delay two new developments have come about.  First, on May 1, 2022, the new traditional Methodist denomination officially launched with the name of Global Methodist Church.  The GMC has a Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline and will have a convening conference in 2023.  Second, several progressive leaders from the UMC have withdrawn their support for the protocol for separation and offered new alternatives to be considered at the 2024 General Conference of the UMC.

Meanwhile, the Texas Annual Conference has approved a process for local churches that wish to disaffiliate from the UMC.  This process includes a period of discernment, a payment of conference apportionments and the local churches portion of the unfunded pension liability, and 2/3 congregational vote for approval.  The administrative board of First UMC Jasper voted on June 21st to begin the discernment process over whether or not to disaffiliate from the UMC and join the GMC.  No final decision has been made at this time.  For the next couple of months, we will have several opportunities to meet and discuss the various options and their potential implications.  Additionally, the East District is hosting an informational meeting this Saturday, July 9th from 2:00 – 3:30 at the Fredonia Hotel and Convention Center in Nacogdoches.

In response to the large number of churches going through the discernment process, Bishop Scott Jones has scheduled a special Annual Conference for December 3, 2022.  This conference will include a vote to approve all churches that wish disaffiliate from the UMC.  Due to the schedule of events and various deadlines, First UMC Jasper will need to decide sometime in October.  I expect there will be many questions and concerns about this matter, and I will be glad to meet with anyone who has further questions.  I ask that you all be in prayer for the church during this time of discernment.

Jacob Smith