LETTER FROM ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been much in the news over the last few
months and there have been new developments in South Carolina. First United
Methodist Church of Isle of Palms (“First Church”) Administrative Council feels it is
important for us to be transparent with you and share our understanding of the situation.
It may be helpful to provide some background. As you may know, General Conference is the world-wide gathering of United Methodists which meets every four years. Only the General Conference can speak for the entire United Methodist Church and only the General Conference can change our Book of Discipline which is UMC’s rule book. In 2019, there was a special session of General Conference to deal with issues related to human sexuality. The 2019 General Conference also created an avenue by which congregations could separate from the UMC. The next General Conference was scheduled for 2020, but like many things planned for 2020, General Conference was rescheduled multiple times and it was eventually decided to suspend meeting (and the proposed separation process) until the next regularly scheduled General Conference in 2024. In the meantime, conferences across the United States created various avenues under which their churches can disaffiliate from the UMC. In late December, 2022, the South Carolina Conference Board of Trustees, released a process by which SC congregations can disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.
Our Church Council voted on January 17, 2023, to table a decision on whether a period of discernment is beneficial at this time. The SC process for disaffiliation prevents a church from separating from UMC if there is a legal proceeding of any kind pending and First Church currently has an existing legal proceeding pending. However, we thought it best to start with educating the congregation on the UMC background and process, create a way for the congregation to ask questions and give feedback and encourage unity. This vote does not preclude us from taking another vote at another time. It does give us time to have conversations about how our Bible believing members can reach different conclusions on what is faithful on these matters.
Here is the disaffiliation discernment process in summary:
● A congregation’s Church Council can vote to initiate a season of discernment
_lasting a minimum of 30 days.
● At the end of a discernment period, a Church Conference would be convened at
_which every professing member of a congregation is eligible to vote.
● A resolution to disaffiliate must be approved by at least a two thirds majority of
_those present at the meeting and voting.
Additionally, because all church property is held in trust by the UMC conference,
payments to the Annual Conference from disaffiliating congregations would include:
● 10% of the appraised value of all church property and liquid assets
● All unpaid apportionment giving for the prior year
● Apportionment giving for the year of closure up to the date of the Annual
_-Conference vote to close the church
● An additional 12 months of apportionment giving
● All unpaid salary and benefits due to clergy appointed to the church
● A withdrawal liability equal to the church’s proportional share of any unfunded
You can view the full details of the discernment process in place for SC Methodist
churches here: https://www.umcsc.org/discern/
For more information, you can find a list of Frequently Asked Questions here:
We’ve also created a section on the First Church website called “UMC Information”
found here https://iopmethodist.com/connect-with-first-church/umc-information where we will be placing various resources. You can check that from time to time to see updates.
We want to hear from you! Please submit questions and/or comments to this email
address, firstname.lastname@example.org or by the paper forms found in the Narthex.
Colossians 3:12, 14 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience….and over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity”. We do not have to agree on everything. People can disagree on important issues and still love one another and continue the important work of the church. Let us commit ourselves to this and serve God together.
Most of all, let us pray for God’s guidance for First Church.
Yours in Christ,
First Church Administrative Council