St. Francisville United Methodist Church is currently facing a monumental decision about the future of our church: Whether our church remains affiliated with the United Methodist denomination or disaffiliates from the denomination and either join another Methodist/Wesleyan denomination or become an independent Methodist church. Our combined hope is to remain the church that changes lives through sharing God’s love and grace. This is not a decision that we take lightly. The Church Council has authorized Discernment Task Forces and a Discernment Leadership Team to work with a hired consultant to put together a process for church members to learn about the issues so that we can each make an educated choice when it comes time to vote. We pray when making your decision you will consider what best meets the needs of our congregation now and in the future. This Information Packet, which has been approved by the Church Council, is part of that process and is intended to help each of us as we discern. It is important that we respect everyone’s privacy and ultimate decision.
In January, our consultant, Mike Gammill from Auxano, a company specializing in helping churches to identify and achieve their vision, will lead us in small group discussions, survey our congregation, and create a report of his findings for the Discernment Leadership Team and Church Council. When this process is completed, every professing/full member of the church in attendance at a local Church Conference will be able to vote on whether or not SFUMC remains in the United Methodist denomination
To prepare ourselves for this monumental decision, we encourage everyone to do five things: 1. PRAY – Pray for God to guide us as individuals and as a church. The Worship Discernment Task Force has developed a prayer program that includes a 40-Day plan for individual prayer, studying scripture, fasting, and listening for God’s guidance. We will provide more details for this essential part of the process soon.
2. GET INFORMED – Read through this Information Packet. We want everyone to be fully informed about the decision we are facing so that each member can decide what they believe is the best direction for our church.
3. ASK QUESTIONS – If you have questions after reading the Information Packet, please send them to the church office or drop them in the Comment Box in the sanctuary foyer. The Discernment Leadership Team will respond to the questions in January. While we may not have the answer to every question, we will try to respond or point you in the right direction to get the answers you seek.
4. ATTEND A TOWN HALL (small group) MEETING – We want every professing/full member of our church who intends to vote on affiliation/disaffiliation to attend one of these meetings, scheduled on January 24 & 25. This will be an opportunity to hear presentations from the consultant and have small group discussions with church members about the decision we are facing. We believe these meetings will be very helpful.
5. VOTE – Every professing/full member of the church who is present at the local Church Conference will be able to vote on whether or not we remain in the United Methodist Denomination/Church (UMC).
The following information is included in this packet: • A list of reasons to stay affiliated with the UMC or to disaffiliate • A description of the discernment process leading up to the church vote • A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Know that we are praying for our church and each of our members throughout this discernment process. In Christ, Discernment Leadership Team Jerry Beauchamp, Lay Leader Stacey King, Church Council Chair & Business & Legal Task Force Virginia Crawford, Worship Task Force Debra Davis, Congregation Connection Task Force Tudy McCann, Administrative Task Force Bill Davis, Affiliation Options Task Force Abby Cochran, At-large Member, Discernment Leadership Team Kati Williamson, At-large Member, Discernment Leadership Team Stacey Sullivan, At-large Member, Discernment Leadership Team Mike Gammill, Consultant Rev. Daniel Hixon, Pastor Liaison
Reasons to STAY AFFILIATED with the UMC
Core Reason: The UMC has a long tradition of accepting all people. It has become a home for those coming together with different perspectives and backgrounds but uniting in the love of God. Having different viewpoints encourages us to think, study and discuss, which grows our relationship with God and each other. Rooted in God’s love, we must face our future with faith, not fear. Here are some reasons some believe staying UMC positions SFUMC for its best future: Connections and Opportunities - St. Francisville United Methodist Church (SFUMC) will continue to grow an already successful church that has long-established partnerships with local and global UMC ministries as well as relationships in our community that span decades of investment and impact. - SFUMC has been a United Methodist congregation since the denomination began in 1968 and was part of its Methodist predecessors since 1844 and has a long history in our community. - Our District Superintendent confirmed on August 24, 2022, that the Conference strives to send ministers that are compatible with local congregations. Pastoral moves are typically initiated by pastors or local church leadership. - The denomination provides an established hierarchy, systems, and structures that provide guidance, support, and checks and balances to ultimately uphold its standards. Culture - SFUMC belongs to a denomination that believes in the promise of “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” - SFUMC and the UMC have a deep culture committed to welcoming all people, in keeping with what we believe Jesus has called us to do. - By staying in the UMC, we will continue to belong to a denomination that celebrates a diversity of thought and perspective, which fosters a healthy culture that helps us all deepen our faith. Theology - SFUMC will continue to uphold biblical theology that includes love for all of God’s children. Jesus never excludes anyone. - SFUMC will continue to stand firmly on existing Christian beliefs and practices. Financial - Staying in the UMC would cost nothing more than the ordinary annual apportionments, which we currently pay. - By staying in the UMC, we would still own our land, facilities and assets subject to the provisions of the trust clause. (See FAQs for more information on the trust clause.)
Reasons to DISAFFILIATE from the UMC
Core Reason: Some UMC leadership would like to allow gay and lesbian persons to become clergy and to allow local congregations to perform same sex weddings. Some in our congregation believe these changes violate their reading of the Bible’s guidance, as the authoritative Word of God, in these matters. Rather than stay affiliated with a changing denomination, some would prefer to align with a denomination committed to upholding a traditional biblical view of marriage and ordination. Here are some reasons why some believe that disaffiliation best positions us for the future: Connections and Opportunities - Our church could join a connectional denomination in the Wesleyan tradition that is unified in its support of a traditional view of scripture and holds its leadership, conferences, clergy, and congregations accountable to this view, or we could become an independent Methodist church - Our church would be able to support missions and ministries that serve the needs of our community and beyond as we put into practice our traditional beliefs. - Our church would be better positioned to hire a pastor who is consistent with our traditional theology and serves for a longer time than is afforded with the itineracy practice of the UMC. Culture - Our church would be free to move on from the long standing UMC denominational debate over human sexuality and re focus our time, energy, and resources on missions and ministries - Our church would be able to maintain our local authority and governance model. - Our church would continue to welcome all people seeking God. Jesus never excludes anyone. Theology - Our church would be free to uphold and practice our current traditional views of the Bible without confusion or pressure (perceived or real) stemming from affiliation with a denomination that allows for alternative interpretations and ministry practices. - If we stay, the traditionalists in our congregation may seek another denomination that better aligns with their traditional theology. Financial - The cost for SFUMC to disaffiliate under Paragraph 2553 would be approximately $130,000. This is a time limited “gracious exit” right that expires in December 2023. We believe the ability to leave after this date, will be harder, more costly and possibly unaffordable for SFUMC. (See FAQ on ”Paragraph 2553”) - By disaffiliating in 2023, our facilities, lands, and assets would be released from the provisions of the trust clause, allowing us to disaffiliate without having to turn our property and facility over to the conference. (See FAQ on “trust clause”). - Annual apportionment fees in many of the alternative Methodist denominations are expected to be less than what we currently pay and spent in ways more closely aligned with our beliefs and mission interests. (See FAQ on “apportionments”)
A Timeline of the Discernment Process for St. Francisville United Methodist Church In order to help us prepare for our monumental decision, here is a quick timeline of what we are planning to do: Step One: Read the Information Packet Please read all the information contained in this packet so you can better understand the process and make an informed decision. Step Two:Period of Individual Reflection–November 20-January 8 Step Three:Participate in the Prayer Program—January 15-February 23 Step Four:Attend a Town Hall (small group) Meeting Please plan to select one of the Town Hall meeting times below and sign up on the church Website at www.stfrumc.org or call the church office at 225-635-3763. We will let you know when the sign-up is available. Tuesday, January 24 @ 5:30-7:30 PM (Nursery available) Wednesday, January 25 @ 1:00-3:00 PM (Nursery available) Wednesday, January 25 @ 6:30-8:30 PM (Nursery available) Each person needs to attend only one meeting, as the same information will be presented and the same questions will be asked at each session. Our goal is to have all professing/full members who intend to vote to attend a meeting. Step Five: Take the Survey On Sunday, January 29, we will allocate time during both worship services for people to take a survey about their opinions on the future of our church. So that every member can have an opportunity to respond, this survey will also be sent via email and mailed to church members The survey will remain open for a week. We encourage every member of our church to take the survey. Step Six: The Consultant’s Report The consultant will present his report on his findings from the Town Hall meetings and the survey to the Discernment Leadership Team and then to the Church Council. Step Seven: Contact District Superintendent The Church Council Chair & Lay Leader will send a letter to the District Superintendent requesting that a date for the local Church Conference vote be set. Step Eight: Church Conference Vote The church conference vote will be scheduled in coordination with our District Superintendent Step Nine: Next Steps If the church votes at the local Church Conference to remain UMC, it will continue to operate as a United Methodist Church. If the church votes to disaffiliate and provides the required documentation, the Louisiana Annual Conference will vote to ratify the decision at its June 21-23 meeting and the disaffiliation would be official June 30, 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions about Discernment and Disaffiliation For St. Francisville United Methodist Church
What is “discernment”? Spiritual discernment is setting oneself or the community apart for a time of deep listening for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, insight and calling. It is not judging others (Matthew 7:1-2), but encountering God’s wisdom and understanding in others, the community of faith and us for discerning God’s calling for the congregation and each of us individually. Discernment is the ability to perceive the right paths in which God’s spirit is directing us.
What is “disaffiliation”? Disaffiliation is the process by which a local church separates from the United Methodist denomination under the provisions of the Book of Discipline in Paragraph 2553, which outlines the reasons a church can disaffiliate, and the process and terms for disaffiliation. The delegates of the Louisiana Annual Conference, at the recommendation of the Conference Board of Trustees, set the process and terms for us here in Louisiana. Paragraph 2553 expires December 2023. A vote for disaffiliation means a decision to leave the United Methodist denomination. A vote against disaffiliation means a decision to stay in the United Methodist denomination.
What is the “Trust Clause”? The United Methodist trust clause is a statement included in legal documents (deeds) declaring that the property and assets of a local church or United Methodist body are held “in trust” for the benefit of the entire UMC denomination. The trust clause ensures that United Methodist property will continue to be used for the purposes of The United Methodist Church. To learn more about the trust clause, go to https://www.umc.org/en/content/ask-the-umc-what-is-the-united-methodist-trust-clause. Under the provisions of Paragraph 2553, a church choosing to disaffiliate for reasons of conscience regarding human sexuality may be released from the restrictions of the trust clause and leave the UMC with all of their property and assets if all requirements for disaffiliating are met. A desire to have property released from the Trust Clause is not, in and of itself, a viable reason for disaffiliation under Paragraph 2553. The provision in Paragraph 2553 is set to expire December 31, 2023.
What is the current UMC stance on homosexuality? The United Methodist Church affirms that sexuality is “God’s good gift to all persons” and that “all people are of sacred worth and are equally valuable in the sight of God.” In 1972, the UMC has also said, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The UMC has also maintained long-standing restrictions regarding homosexual clergy and weddings. Pastors may not be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” and may not conduct ceremonies that celebrate same-sex weddings or unions. Such ceremonies also may not be held on church property. For more information, see What is the Church's position on homosexuality? (www.umc.org/)
What are the proposed changes to the UMC stance on homosexuality? Many proposals have been considered that involve removing the “incompatible” statement referenced above. These proposals have been presented at every General Conference since 1972 and have not passed.
If the rules have not changed yet and Louisiana is currently enforcing the rules we have, why consider Disaffiliation at this time? The next General Conference of the UMC (a worldwide gathering of UMC delegates) will be held in 2024, and changes may occur at this time. As the number of churches leaving increases, the balance of power between traditional and progressive theology at the Conference, Jurisdiction and General Conference levels may be impacted.
The current method for disaffiliation, passed by the 2019 General Conference, can be found in Paragraph 2553 in the UMC Book of Discipline. In 2021, the Louisiana Annual Conference added the following requirements for Louisiana churches voting to disaffiliate: one additional year of apportionments; all membership records, baptismal records, marriage records, minutes of church committees and boards, financial records and UM hymnals must be turned over to Conference; and the United Methodist name and the cross and flame branding must be removed from all signs, buildings, websites, social media platforms, etc. The current method for disaffiliation expires on December 31, 2023.
What are the Financial Costs of Disaffiliation? If St. Francisville UMC votes to disaffiliate prior to the 2023 Louisiana Annual Conference, we will be required to pay the Louisiana Conference approximately $130,000 to leave the denomination with our properties. The exact amount will not be known until the time of the Church Conference vote. This number was determined by using the process outlined by paragraph 2553, with additions from the Conference Board of Trustees. Additionally, if membership declines, it could result in a reduction of financial, service and ministry support.
What are apportionments? Apportionments are a cost paid from our tithes and offerings to support connectional Conference and UMC missions, ministries, seminaries and overhead. The percentage of tithes we pay is established annually by the Louisiana Conference and is currently based on a formula adopted by the Louisiana Annual Conference delegates, which considers mainly our expenses less our mission expenditures and capital expenditures. In 2022, SFUMC’s apportionment was approximately $26,000 for the year. If you want to know more about apportionments, go to https://www.la-umc.org/apportionments.
How will we pay for the cost of Disaffiliation? St. Francisville UMC currently has funds in unrestricted reserves to pay the disaffiliation costs under the current provision of Paragraph 2553.
If we hold a Church Conference, who can vote? Any professing/full member of the church who attends the Church Conference in person is eligible to vote. A Professing/full member is one who has been baptized, made a profession of personal faith in Jesus Christ, and joined St. Francisville United Methodist Church with membership vows. This includes those confirmed at SFUMC, those who have joined SFUMC by profession of faith or professing members of other churches who have transferred their membership. If you are not sure if you are a professing/full member, check with the church office. Those who are unable to be present at the vote cannot submit a proxy vote, nor can anyone vote electronically.
What is the voting threshold to disaffiliate? Two-thirds of the professing members who attend the Church Conference must vote to disaffiliate for the measure to pass. While we want as many members as possible to come and vote, there is no minimum number required to reach a quorum. Whoever is present at the meeting constitutes a quorum.
What will happen if we vote to disaffiliate? If the vote for disaffiliation passes, our Trustees and Church Council will begin the legal process of transferring all assets into the name of the new church entity we will create. We will also begin exploring our next steps as a church, including whether we affiliate with another Methodist denomination or become independent. This will be the next phase of our discernment process. If we disaffiliate, our church will continue to serve people in the St. Francisville area, just as we have always done. We will continue to worship in our sanctuary and your membership will transfer to the new church entity effective June 30, 2023, unless your membership is moved elsewhere prior to that date.
What will happen if we vote to stay in the UMC? If we remain in the UMC, we will retain our current assets in trust to the UMC and will continue to serve people in the St. Francisville area, just as we have always done. We will continue to worship in our sanctuary and your membership will remain as it is.
What will happen to our current members who disagree with the results of the vote? Our hope is that everyone will continue to be a member of our church, regardless of the results of the vote. We understand, however, that some people will choose to join another church that more closely aligns with their beliefs.
What will happen to our current pastor after the vote? Reverend Daniel is in his own personal period of discernment to determine what he will do. His membership is with the Louisiana Conference, not with our church. Rev. Daniel’s decision is not part of the church’s disaffiliation decision.
If we elect to disaffiliate, our Disaffiliation Options Task Force will build and share an information packet on the denomination options or independent option with members. As a membership, we will discern the option that best fits our church using a process similar to the one we used to decide on disaffiliation. Our hope would be that we could make this decision before June 30, 2023.
Will we have to change our name if we disaffiliate? Yes. We will no longer be “United” Methodist and must remove all references to the UMC and branding images, from our signage, church buildings, etc. However, we can retain “St. Francisville” and “Methodist” in our church name. While the final name has not been determined, one suggestion is “St. Francisville Methodist Church”.
Where can I learn more information? There are numerous sources of information about the current situation in the United Methodist Church. Please note that not everything you can read on the internet is helpful or even truthful. The decision on how you vote is a very personal decision. It is important that you not rely on hearsay. Draw your own conclusions by doing your own research and listening for guidance from the Holy Spirit. While we are working hard to provide information on both sides of this complicated issue, the decision, which is ultimately yours, requires intense prayerful discernment. Some viewpoints on remaining in the UMC:
What are the Discernment Teams and their responsibilities?
Discernment Leadership Team-This team provides oversight to the Task Forces and is made up of the Church Council Chair, the Lay Leader, the chairs of each Task Force and members at large. The team’s key purpose is to seek resolution on key issues to bring forward to Church Council for approval. Members: Jerry Beauchamp, Stacey King, Virginia Crawford, Debra Davis, Abby Cochran, Tudy McCann, Bill Davis, Kati Williamson, Stacey Sullivan
Other Resources-Mike Gammill, Consultant; Rev. Daniel Hixon, Pastor Liaison
Worship & Prayer Task Force-Plan the 40-day prayer process and other spiritual practices that will undergird the discernment. Members: Virginia Crawford, chair; Joe Kelley, Jean Fox, Kathi Bates, Ada Lord, Karen Berman, Stacey King
Congregational Connection Task Force-Prepare information packet for congregation and work with consultant to develop opportunities and identify additional educational resources for congregation members to learn about and discuss the issues surrounding the future affiliation of SFUMC. Members: Debra Davis, chair; Abby Cochran, Amanda McKinney, Steve, McKinney, Ann Andries, Amy Louviere, Jerry Beauchamp, Stacey King, Nancy Bailey, Cathy Howard, Virginia Crawford
Business & Legal Task Force-Address matters surrounding financial and legal implications regarding both remaining UMC and disaffiliating from UMC. Members: Stacey King, chair; Sam Rosso, assistant chair; Theresa Stevens, Neal King, Jerry Beauchamp, Haley Green
Administrative Task Force-Update contact information for members and provide support to other Task Force teams. Members: Tudy McCann, Brenda Ard, Claire Mott
Affiliation Options Task Force-Explore options and implications for affiliation with other Methodist-related denominations and remaining independent, if the church votes to disaffiliate. This team will engage later in the discernment process, if there is a need. Members: Bill Davis, Martha Robertson, John Ritchie