Based off the most frequently asked questions at the September 2022 gatherings with Bishop David Graves
New FAQ Video with Bishop Graves (October 2022)
Q: What is the timeline between now and the end of 2024?
The Bishop, Cabinet, Conference Staff, Conference Chancellor, and the Conference Trustees have worked together to develop a timeline to help guide local churches.
View the timeline here: www.sgaumc.org/disaffiliation-timeline
Q: Can the Conference Trustees really use paragraph 2549 of the Book of Discipline to extend the terms of the disaffiliation policy?
Yes. The Trustees have affirmed that, after the expiration of the provisions of ¶2553 and the Disaffiliation Policy, and in accordance with the provisions of ¶2549, the Trustees will continue to enter into agreements with local churches that desire to exit the Annual Conference. They will use the same terms outlined in ¶2553 and the Disaffiliation Policy. However, the official language that will be in effect beginning January 2024, under ¶2549, will be departure not disaffiliation. The Chair of the Trustees and the Conference Chancelor have provided explanations at www.sgaumc.org/disaffiliations-after-2023.
Q: How do church disaffiliations affect our conference agencies?
Our Conference agencies work to change lives every single day. As they do their important work, they will continue to be supported by United Methodist Churches in South Georgia and welcome support from any church or individual wanting to partner with them in making an impact for the Kingdom of God.
Q: If nothing has changed in the Book of Discipline, why would a church choose to leave The United Methodist Church before the General Conference meets?
If the vast majority of members of a church, for matters of conscience, no longer wish to be United Methodist, there exists a specific path to disaffiliate. While the decision is contextual, the exact language is that churches may leave: “for reasons of conscience regarding a change in the requirements and provisions of the Book of Discipline related to the practice of homosexuality or the ordination or marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals as resolved and adopted by the 2019 General Conference, or the actions or inactions of its annual conference related to these issues which follow.” Of course, it is our hope that churches will remain until the General Conference is held, allowing decisions to be made. At that time the clergy and laity of South Georgia will have the necessary information before them to make informed decisions together about the future.
Q: Does my church have to take a vote now?
No. No church is required to vote or required to even consider voting to disaffiliate.
Q: What happens to the pastoral leadership of a church if it votes to disaffiliate from the UMC?
Once a congregation is disaffiliated, it is no longer a United Methodist congregation. Thus, the church will no longer be under the appointive process of The United Methodist Church. The District Superintendent will not be able to assist a disaffiliated church in identifying or securing pastoral leadership.
Q: I am a lay person and think my congregation will vote to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. I want to remain a United Methodist. What can I do?
The South Georgia Conference is committed to ensuring all persons who wish to remain a United Methodist will be able to do so, even if their congregation disaffiliates. Conference Leadership is actively developing plans to start new congregations and ministries in areas where current United Methodist congregations vote to leave the denomination. These will include new churches, house churches, fresh expressions, and more. All laity who wish to remain United Methodists but are part of a congregation planning to disaffiliate should contact their District Superintendent who will help make connections with nearby United Methodist congregations or new ministries. More information will be forthcoming as plans are developed.
Q: What happens if our pastor decides to leave The United Methodist Church, but our congregation wishes to continue as a United Methodist church?
The Bishop will appoint a new pastor to your congregation.
Q: What happens if our congregation votes to disaffiliate from the UMC, but our pastor wants to remain in The United Methodist Church?
Once your congregation’s disaffiliation is complete, you will no longer be appointed a pastor by the South Georgia Conference. Your current pastor will receive a new appointment, and it will be up to your own congregation to secure your congregation’s future pastoral leadership.
Q: Given all of the disagreements and controversy, why should my church stay United Methodist?
Bishop Graves has shared that he firmly believes The United Methodist Church needs traditional, orthodox members as well as progressive members, centrist members, and everyone in between. A church cannot effectively reach the least, the lost, and the lonely if it is of one mind on every topic. It takes us all to challenge and encourage one another in our discipleship efforts and our spiritual journey. Read Bishop Graves’ “Ten Reasons Why I Love Being United Methodist.”
Q: Are persons with a traditional mindset being asked to leave The UMC?
No. No one is being asked to leave The United Methodist Church. All United Methodists (members, clergy, congregations), regardless of what label may be used to describe them (and recognizing no label is adequate), are welcome in The United Methodist Church. In fact, conference leadership views it as harmful to continue the rhetoric of labeling each other. We are Christians; that is the label that should count. Our diversity is essential to our mission and ministry.
Q: Is The United Methodist Church going to alter its doctrine to deny the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, or salvation through Christ alone?
No. Though there may be outliers in any multi-million member denomination, The UMC holds fast to the historic and traditional doctrines of the Christian church. All of these positions are bedrock in the doctrinal standards of The United Methodist Church, more specifically in the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith. These cannot be altered without a two-thirds vote of the General Conference followed by a three-fourths aggregate approval of all annual conferences of The United Methodist Church worldwide. There is no basis to conclude such majorities can be achieved to alter the Articles and Confession for any reason.
Here is what the Articles and Confession say on these matters and will continue to say.
Virgin Birth and Divinity of Jesus
Articles of Religion, Article II:
“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin.”
Confession of Faith, Article II:
“We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, in whom the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Articles of Religion, Article III:
“Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again his body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.”
Confession of Faith, Article II:
"Jesus Christ... was buried, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with the Father, from whence he shall return."
Salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ
Articles of Religion, Article IX:
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith.”
Confession of Faith, Article IX:
“We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Q: Has the Book of Discipline changed?
No. The policies of The United Methodist Church are set by the General Conference. The General Conference is the only body that can change them. The General Conference has not met since 2019 due to a global pandemic. Nothing has changed since the last world-wide gathering.
Q: Will the Bishop, Cabinet, and Conference Board of Ministry uphold the Book of Discipline in South Georgia?
Yes. The South Georgia Conference - the Bishop, Cabinet, and Conference Board of Ministry - upholds and operates under the 2016/2019 Book of Discipline.
Q: Will South Georgia Conference clergy be required to perform same-sex weddings?
No. The Book of Discipline has not changed. United Methodist clergy are prohibited from performing same-sex weddings. The United Methodist Church only has two sacraments: baptism and communion. No clergy person is ever compelled or required to perform any wedding, and local church trustees oversee the wedding policy of the individual local church. ?
Q: There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. How can I make sure my church is reviewing and evaluating accurate information?
Primary sources are always an excellent starting point.
Visit www.sgaumc.org regularly and subscribe to e-newsletters at www.sgaumc.org/subscribe.
Find information on the General Conference at www.sgaumc.org/gc2020.
Find information on the Disaffiliation Process at www.sgaumc.org/disaffiliation.
Cokesbury offers a free digital copy of the Book of Discipline or you can order a print copy from Cokesbury. Visit www.cokesbury.com.
The Annual Conference Journal is our historic and guiding document, Find it at www.sgaumc.org/conferencejournal
South Georgia Conference News and information is shared at www.sgaumc.org.
If you receive information that you’d like to verify, reach out to your District Superintendent.