Peace and grace People of Pentecost:
I write to call your attention to two issues that were acted on this week (Monday) at a call meeting of the Church Council (Carol Groomes, chair).
ISSUE I – The Sanctuary Floor
Many of you know our sanctuary floor and under support has been decimated by pesky termites. The infestation was mitigated by Terminix on last year. The Church Council moved to have CPM Home & Outdoor make the repairs. The contractor will visit the church and give a full overview of the work scope, and also answer questions. We will announce when this meeting is scheduled. The estimated cost for the repair is approximately $64,000.
ISSUE II – Disaffiliation from United Methodist Denomination
Strawbridge church and leadership believes in the worth, value and personhood of ALL people and we wish to be a community of faith that loves, welcomes, serves, and shares in ministry with all who confess Jesus as Lord. The name “Methodist” is already involved in controversy around the US and world, and certainly will invoke more toxicity when the General Conference convenes in 2024, where a split and schism of the denomination due to changes in the UM Discipline are all but certain. The historic and storied United Methodist Women have already REMOVED the name “Methodist” from their name and brand. They are hitherto called, United Women In Faith. We want all persons to feel welcomed, safe and have no inhibitions when worshiping or living out their faith alongside us, and we also do not want the name on the building, nor what we call ourselves to be a concern nor deterrent.
For these reasons (and others pertinent to the future of our faithful witness and ministry) the Church Council exercised UM Discipline paragraph 2553, which BEGINS the process of Disaffiliation for “reasons of conscience” on matters related to homosexuality. The 2019 General Conference instructed ALL United Methodist Conference trustees to put together a plan by which churches can disaffiliate due “reasons of conscience” ONLY and retain all their property and assets. Paragraph 2553 is only available as an option for churches through December 31, 2023, but any church wishing to disaffiliate must do so prior to their Annual Conference. The Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference is scheduled for May 2023. The ruling and language of Paragraph 2553, DOES NOT ASK how you feel about LGBQT issues; the only requirement is one’s conscience is bothered on the topic, hence “reasons of conscience.” For this reason, both churches in solidarity with the LGBTQ community and those who oppose gay marriage are seeking disaffiliation. You can Google the topic and see the exodus.
The full Disaffiliation Process for the Baltimore-Washington Conference is attached (as each Conference has their own rules addressing Paragraph 2553). You will see that Step 1, only required we send a letter of intention to our District Superintendent (DS). This has been done. The DS in turn sends notice to the Conference trustees, who are required to assess the individual church and send a packet containing all the details concerning payments and transfer of ownership. Additionally, the church is required to go through a discernment process before making the final decision to Disaffiliate. ALL OF YOU would be in this final decision because it would take place at the annual Church Charge Conference with the DS attending, usually scheduled late September or October 2022. Of course, we are writing you now that we might be transparent, open and engage with you individually and collectively throughout the discernment period.
Our resident bishop, Latrelle Easterling, often says, “We are living in liminal times.” The essence of her incantation could not be more true. WE ASK that you read the attached document (pdf), be in prayer for OUR church and ministry, and pray mightily for people of God everywhere. Also, pray much for our seniors and those who have only known Methodism all their lives.
Here is a link for you to see what is already happening in other UM Conferences around the nation:
YOURS IN CHRIST,
With a potential United Methodist split still up in the air, an increasing number of U.S. churches already are heading for the exits. At least five congregations of varying views on LGBTQ inclusion are now in talks to cut ties with The United Methodist Church — often at great expense.