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.