Denomination Discernment

First United Methodist Church New Braunfels is part of the United Methodist Church (UMC). The UMC is a world-wide denomination in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition that traces its theology and beginnings to John Wesley. If you want to find out more about our denomination, check out UMC.ORG.

 

INFORMATION ABOUT FIRST AND DISAFFILIATION

Recently the United Methodist Church has been in the news as various churches have left the denomination. This page is intended to collect information for those seeking information specific to First UMC. 

TERMS

Wesylan 

 Theology and beliefs that trace back to John Wesley. Wesleyan theology is shared by all Methodist Churches as well as many others. Distinctive features of Wesleyan theology is an emphasis on entire sanctification (christian perfection) and grace. 

General Conference

The world-wide gathering of clergy and lay-delegates in the UMC who meet to determine the rules and direction of the church. They typically meet every 4 years. The last General Conference (2020) did not happen because of the pandemic. The next scheduled General Conference is 2024. 

The Book of Discipline

The rule book of the UMC specifies our rules and major doctrine.  

Annual Conference

The Methodist Church is made up of regional bodies called Annual Conferences (who meet together annually). They are led by a Bishop. Pastors, unlike members of the congregation, are members of the annual conference. That is why, for example, UMC pastors “itinerate” or move to new churches every few years but generally stay in the same region (Annual Conference). We belong to the Rio Texas Conference. Our Bishop is Robert Schnase

Disaffiliation

A process in which a local church chooses to leave the denomination, either to join another denomination or become an “independent” non-denominational church. Many churches began disaffiliation in 2019 due to an avenue voted during the 2019 Special General Conference which opened up a pathway of independence.

 

THE UMC IS IN THE NEWS A LOT - WHAT IS GOING ON?

Churches are leaving the denomination through a Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline which allows churches to disaffiliate over issues related to ”reasons of conscience” – due to changes in the Book of Discipline concerning the “practice of homosexuality” or the “ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” 

It is important to note that the Book of Discipline has not been changed and does not condone the practice of homosexuality, nor allow for the ordination or marriage of LGTB individuals. Paragraph 2553 was added anticipating either conservatives or liberals would want to leave the denomination, depending on what decisions or changes General Conference 2020 was to have made or not have made regarding the ordination or marriage of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” 

WHY ARE CHURCHES LEAVING NOW?

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement of the 2020 General Conference. As mentioned, Paragraph 2553, added in 2019 at a special General Conference, created an avenue for churches to leave, assuming the General Conference in 2020 would provide a framework for resolution. Unfortunately, that paragraph sunsets at the end of 2023 due to lack of consideration that General Conference would be postponed until 2024. Some churches in some Annual Conferences believed leaving before Paragraph 2553’s sunset was their best option. The decision is not as urgent in the  Rio Texas Conference, however,  because  our Annual Conference has a process in place that will allow for disaffiliation beyond 2023. 

DO churches need to vote now to disaffiliate?

One of the most important things to understand about the process of disaffiliation is that different Annual Conferences have enacted different rules. Much of the information found on the internet is about other Annual Conferences – and do not apply to Rio Texas Annual Conference. Confusingly, one of the UMC’s Annual Conferences is called the “Texas Annual Conference,” but only represents east Texas. Despite being in Texas, we are not part of the Texas Annual Conference. Our conference is called the Rio Texas Annual Conference and it has opened up, through a policy of the Trustees, an avenue for disaffiliation into the future beyond 2023 and the sunset of Paragraph 2553. Bishop Schnase addresses the issue here:

 

What options are there for First UMC?

Remain UMC, no vote is required

It is important to be clear that no vote in necessary. A church will remain in the UMC if it takes no action. The majority of UMC churches are choosing this option. 

Disaffiliate

Disaffiliation requires a 2/3 majority vote of the church membership. It also requires a period of discernment with a process led by the District Superintendent, paying off apportionments for 2 years (what we agreed upon at Annual Conference) and pension liability for previous pastors. A church that disaffiliates has a number of options. Some of them are listed below: 

Become Non-Denominational 

First could disaffiliate from the UMC and simply not reaffiliate with any other denomination. In the wake of similar church splits in other denominations many churches chose this path. 

Join the Global Methodist Church

The GMC is a new Wesleyan denomination with a commitment to heterosexual ordination and marriage, as well as explicit enforcement mechanisms. It is largely made up of ex-UMC churches. 

Join the Free Methodist Church

The FMC is an already existing conservative Methodist denomination that some churches have joined. 

Join an Emerging Methodist Association

Associations of independent Methodist churches seem to be forming, though it will likely be a few years before this option is clear. 

Has FIrst UMC addressed disaffiliation?

Pastor Andrew held a special after-church information session in December 2022 addressing disaffiliation and numerous follow up meetings since. He has also addressed it at our open board meetings, and upon invitation in Sunday School and small groups. He has recommended patience and a process for the following reasons: 

  1. FUMCNB is recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of that recovering is a need to create a strategic plan for the church’s ministry. 
  2. FUMCNB has recently undergone significant changes in pastoral and other staff. The process of disaffiliation is often divisive in the church and will require trust between the pastor and the congregation to navigate the complexity. 
  3. Moving slowly allows us to evaluate the issues faced by churches who chose different options, as well as be clear about options continuously emerging.  It is uncertain what, if anything, the 2024 General Conference will do. Making a decision without that crucial information would be premature and potentially limit our future potential. 

Pastor Andrew has recommended developing a ministry framework based on the what the church’s vision is for the future. Included in this plan would be an evaluation of affiliation options. 

Where can I get more information about what our annual Conference process is?

Many people have asked about our Conference rules for disaffiliation and for information directly from the Bishop. The Rio Texas Annual Conference has a website devoted to “discerning pathways” that provides many links. You can find it here. The videos by the conference office help answer many of the questions. They also created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and reasons to stay UMC