Who Are We?

By Rev. Keith Turman | 2023-01-26 | 4 min read

A Response to Questions About Disaffiliation

The United Methodist Church is splintering. We had hoped our great denomination would stay together—that we could be a place for all people in spite of our differences. Our hope is—and always has been—that anyone searching for God, anyone curious about faith, anyone needing a friend or a place to belong—that they could find a home in the United Methodist Church. In the midst of this current mess we’re in, a friend said to me, “We’ll have to change our name. We’re not ‘united’ anymore.” It’s an interesting suggestion. The conversation about our name has a long and storied history. I would actually argue for changing our logo before changing our name. The image of a burning cross is the stuff of nightmares for many people.

The name Methodist emerged almost three hundred years ago as a joke—people were mocking John and Charles Wesley and their attempts to live a more disciplined, faithful life in the Church of England. Their detractors even wrote a little ditty: “By rule they eat, by rule they drink, do all things else by rule, but think—accuse their priests of loose behavior, to get more in the laymen’s favor; method alone must guide ‘em all, whence Methodists themselves they call” (The Story of Methodism, Luccock). These Methodist societies, which never intended to leave the Church of England, began to gather in America. And in 1784, on Christmas Eve in Baltimore, Maryland, Methodist preachers voted to disaffiliate from the Church of England, and they formed the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1830, many in the new denomination were upset with the church’s bishops, so they left and formed the Methodist Protestant Church. Disaffiliation happened again, at the General Conference of 1844. A sharp disagreement over the issue of slavery and a slave-owning bishop gave rise to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. On a much more delightful historical note, on April 26, 1939, at the Uniting Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church, reunited to form the Methodist Church. But at the same time, this ‘uniting’ conference created the Central Jurisdiction, which segregated African American pastors and congregations. What a mess. Finally, in April 1968, a few weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Methodist Church joined with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to become the United Methodist Church. And they promptly dissolved the Central Jurisdiction, which reunited black and white congregations into regional conferences.

For decades now, the United Methodist Church has struggled to find it’s way. Sharp disagreement over the full inclusion of people in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically as it relates to marriage and ordination of clergy, has led to the creation of a new denomination. In May of last year, some bishops, clergy and laity against LGBTQ+ inclusion, launched the Global Methodist Church. United Methodist congregations across the country are now having conversations about who they are, and how they will move forward into the future. Some are voting to disaffiliate. Some are choosing a new name.

Many of you are asking questions about our future. What will FUMC Waynesville do? The short answer is that we will not have a disaffiliation vote. We have no plans to leave the United Methodist Church. We know who we are. On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, the Leadership Team proposed an identity statement to FUMC Waynesville—in full congregational conference—and the church voted. The identity statement was overwhelmingly approved by ninety-one percent of the members present. You can read the statement here: www.fumc-waynesville.com/our-vision.

As our United Methodist denomination splinters over the matter, you have made it clear that our LGBTQ+ friends, family members and neighbors are both included and affirmed in our life together.

We believe that each person is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth. Therefore we welcome and affirm persons of every race, socioeconomic status, family make-up, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mental and physical ability, and faith history. If you are searching for God, if you are curious about matters of faith, if you need a friend or a place to belong—you have a home at First United Methodist Church Waynesville. We are the living body of Christ, welcoming all, growing in faith, and engaging the world in love.

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