West Point FUMC Discernment Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is “disaffiliation” from the United Methodist Church (UMC)? Is the church splitting at this time? 
    “Disaffiliation” is a process whereby a United Methodist Church can separate from the United Methodist Church Denomination while keeping its property and assets. Since West Point FUMC is a United Methodist Church, if we want to separate from the denomination, this process is required.The term “split” applies when there is a negotiated agreement within the denomination to divide assets and resources. No such agreement has been made in The United Methodist Church.
  2. Has West Point FUMC or its leadership decided to separate or disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church (UMC)?
    The decision to disaffiliate from the UMC is a congregational one and requires a vote by professing members of the congregation who are present and have taken a ballot at a specially called in-person church conference.We have decided to begin a period of discernment, or a process of discernment, with the congregation to determine our future course of action for West Point FUMC. At the request of the Administrative Council, a discernment committee has been created consisting of nominated congregational representatives voted on by a special committee. The discernment committee will provide a recommendation to Administrative Council. Only the Administrative Council can vote to call a church conference for the purpose of congregational vote on disaffiliation.
  3. Would anything change at West Point FUMC because of disaffiliation from the UMC?
    While it is impossible to know the full impact that leaving the UMC would have on our congregation, we can speculate based on the anatomy of our church today. Worship would remain much the same (but with no United Methodist hymnals and other UMC-specific articles, etc.). All persons would continue to be welcome to join the community of faith at our church. Once the disaffiliation process has been completed, our property and assets would be under the complete control of our local church body and not the Mississippi Conference. We would no longer be able to use the “Cross and Flame” symbol. It would be necessary to drop “United Methodist” from our church name. This church will be completely disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church and all of its connections.
  4. What will it cost to disaffiliate?
    Paragraph 2553 in section 4.b) states, “The local church shall pay any unpaid apportionments for the 12 months prior to disaffiliation, as well as an additional 12 months of apportionments.” The West Point FUMC figure, provided by David Stotts, Mississippi UMC treasurer, was a maximum of $304,499.
    This amount must be paid in full by December 31, 2023.*All figures presented are based on the December 2, 2022 letter from the Mississippi UMC treasurer David Stotts. Final numbers will be made available July 15, 2023.There would be additional costs to replace signage, hymnals and complete other administrative tasks related to the name change. The amount of these costs cannot be calculated at this time and would be determined by decisions made outside of the discernment committee.
  5. What UMC Connectional Ministries are funded by our apportionments?
    • Mississippi partnerships (Millsaps College; Rust College; Wesley Pines Conference, Camping and Retreat Center; Camp Lake Stephens; Seashore United Methodist Assembly; Gulfside Association, Inc.; Methodist Children's Homes of Mississippi; Choctaw Mission; Delta Grace, Good Shepherd Community Center, Inc.; Edwards Street Fellowship Center; Moore Community House; Wesley House Community Center, Inc.; Bethlehem Center, Inc.; St. Andrew's Mission; United Methodist Hour United Methodist Senior Services, Baddour Center, Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, Seashore Mission and the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation)
    • United Women of Faith (formerly known as United Methodist Women)
    • United Methodist Men
    • Church and Society
    • Board of Global Ministries (missions, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and health and welfare)
    • Youth and Family Ministries
    • Commission on CommunicationOther areas of care include: overseeing and planning the Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference, congregations for children, personnel committee, journal, resolutions and petitions, and standing rules.Source: https://www.mississippi-umc.org/connectionalministries
  6. What is the argument for disaffiliating now instead of waiting for the outcome of the 2024 General Conference?
    Right now, we have a gracious and clear exit clause in 2553, which means we will be asked to do the following to keep our properties:
    • Pay our year’s apportionments
    • Pay our unmet pension liability
    • The cost to disaffiliate now is estimated as $304,499. Final numbers will be released July 15, 2023.There is uncertainty in waiting.
    • 2553 expires December 31, 2023
    • We do not know if there will be an exit clause in 2024.
    • If there is an exit clause addendum or extension, we don’t know if the separation protocols will be evenly and fairly implemented. We also don’t know what our financial obligation will be at that time.
    • We don’t know who will be in leadership in 2024.
    • The extension granted by MS Conference Board of Trustees does not include detailed financial obligations and does not guarantee financial obligation will not change upon expiration of 2553 [see below process details].In October 2022, the MS Conference Board of Trustees adopted a motion to extend 2553 within the conference:
    On March 15, 2022, the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church affirmed that ¶2553 is the primary provision of The Discipline to be used for disaffiliation and separation from the Denomination.

    The Discipline ¶2549 sets forth an approved process for the disposition of property of closed local churches and is believed to currently provide the best alternative for leaving the Denomination upon the expiration of ¶2553.

    The Conference Trustees wished to provide a means for local churches desiring to exit the Denomination on terms and conditions consistent with ¶2553 after the expiration of ¶2553. They determined that by utilizing ¶2549 and a process, terms, and conditions consistent with   ¶2553 in conjunction with ¶2549, would be the best and most consistent means of leaving the Denomination after the expiration of  ¶2553.

    On a duly made motion and seconded, the Trustees adopt this report affirming that, after the expiration of the provisions of ¶2553, the current Disaffiliation Policy approved by the Trustees,  will be utilized.   The provisions of ¶2549 vests the Trustees with the power to administer the disposition of property of a closed church. These policies and procedures adopted by the Trustees will become the policy for local churches to leave the  Denomination.

    A local church shall have the right pursuant to the expired paragraph 2553 to exit the denomination, authorized by this motion, upon a vote of a two-thirds majority of the professing members of the local church present and voting at the properly convened church conference.

    This process shall become effective upon expiration of  ¶2553 and extend no later than the last day of the 2025 Annual Conference.

    Source: https://www.mississippi-umc.org/newsdetail/miss-conference-trustee-adopt-motion-to-extend-disaffiliation-process-after-2023-170929687.

  7. What will happen to our staff if we decide to disaffiliate?
    Members of the staff are not appointed by the Conference nor are they employees of the Conference. They are employed by the local church. They are accountable to the Staff Pastor Relations Committee under the current church structure. The church does not provide insurance benefits to any of its employees.
  8. What will happen to the Child Development Center daycare?
    The CDC is a vibrant and vital ministry of the church and has been for a long time. The vote outcome will not directly affect the daycare’s operations. Due to the required name change, administrative tasks and legal documentation will be required if West Point FUMC disaffiliates from United Methodist Church.
  9. What does it mean to hold property “in trust”?
    The trust clause is a historic, universal claim made by the UMC and written into the church’s articles of incorporation in an effort to retain ownership rights of local church properties. Holding property in trust for The United Methodist Church means the “holder” (West Point FUMC) is required to use the property exclusively for the purposes of and to benefit The United Methodist Church. It also means that if at any point, it becomes clear the holder can no longer or chooses to no longer function as part of The United Methodist Church, it forfeits all rights to continue to hold the property, and the property itself and all other assets transfer to the denomination (the Mississippi Conference Board of Trustees).Simply put, the Mississippi Conference actually owns all property and assets currently being used by West Point FUMC. West Point FUMC does not own its own property or assets. Should West Point FUMC vote to disaffiliate from the UMC under Paragraph 2553, West Point FUMC will be released from the trust clause and will own all property and assets.
  10. How can my voice be heard?
    • Participate in the survey we will be putting out in the weeks to come.
    • Email the Discernment Team at discernment@fumcwestpoint.com
  11. What brought us to the point of discernment?
    • Methodists have been debating language regarding human sexuality since it was introduced in the Book of Discipline in 1972.

    However, we do agree that we welcome all into the life of our church. 

    • ¶ 161.G includes: “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment …… We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends”

    • Our 2016 Book of Discipline does include restrictions on ordained clergy. The debate centers around these two.

    • ¶ 304.3 The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

    • ¶ 341.6 Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
    Legislation to remove such language has been proposed at General Conference 8 times over the last50 years.

    These proposed changes have never passed.

    Some are choosing to defy the Book of Discipline:
    • In 2016, Karen Olivetofrom the Western Jurisdiction was elected the first openly lesbian bishop
    • Some bishops have ordained openly gay clergy and/or allowed clergy to perform same-sex weddingsIn February 2019, a special session of the General Conference was called specifically to address this issue. Ultimately the “One Church Plan”(a plan that would have changed this language and allowed local churches to decide for themselves) was voted down in favor of the “Traditional Plan” where language remained unchanged also at the 2019 General Conference, a “Paragraph 2553” was added to the Book of Discipline to allow Local Churches to disaffiliate if they meet its requirements and in doing so will be released from their Trust Clause. This provision expires on 12/31/2023. Decisions at the 2019 General Conference did little to resolve the debate. In fact, tensions escalated. Leaders hoped to propose a way to peacefully separate at the 2020 General Conference.  However, Covid 19 postponed that Conference till 2024. In the absence of a General Conference, some local churches have decided to exercise ¶ 2553 and disaffiliate now.