You might be hearing from laity across the Iowa Annual Conference who wish to #BeUMC, but their church seems to be guided toward disaffiliation by church leadership. The Central Texas Conference has compiled some ideas for advocating for your church to remain in The United Methodist Church, and the Iowa Conference would like to share. The following #BeUMC information is available for downloading, printing, and sharing by clicking here
. If your church does vote to disaffiliate and you wish to remain in The United Methodist Church, please contact your District Superintendent,
who will be happy to assist you in finding a new home in The UMC.
First, Know This: You Are Not Alone
If you are feeling concerned and frustrated because your church is being actively led to leave The UMC - perhaps by members within the church, perhaps by the pastor – with no measured discussion as to why you may feel as if they are on an island. Please know that you are not alone, and there are a great many lay people who are committed to remaining United Methodists and believe that the things that bind us together are far more critical than the things that divide. These committed lay people exist in every congregation.
Working Together, Laity Have Power and Influence
It takes a vote of 2/3rds of the church members present at a disaffiliation church conference to approve disaffiliating from The UMC. Church conferences on disaffiliation have already convened throughout the denomination, assuming the church would vote to disaffiliate. Still, the number of votes in favor of disaffiliation did not meet the 2/3rds requirement, and thus the church remains in connection with The UMC. While a local church pastor may decide to withdraw from The UMC, pastors do not have the authority to compel church members to vote on disaffiliation or a particular way.
Build a Coalition in Support of Remaining UMC
Just as those committed to disaffiliation are actively working to marshal the votes to leave, those who wish for their church to remain UMC also need to connect, share ideas, speak up during the discernment process and encourage one another to show up and vote if a disaffiliation church conference is scheduled. There are countless ways to build such a coalition. The following is just a sampling of the things you can do to advocate for your church to remain UMC:
- If you do not already have one, ask your church secretary or pastor for a printout of your church directory, including all active and inactive church members and their contact information. (There is no provision in the UMC Discipline to bar an “inactive” member on the church rolls from voting.)
- Partner with others to form a strategy team for reaching people. Remember, you are not alone.
- Prioritize in-person, face-to-face contact with the laity of your church. Make door-to-door visits to the homes of those on the directory list, asking for the opportunity to discuss the issue – especially the significant talking points used to argue for disaffiliation. If you are part of a large church, you will need the help of others to accomplish this. Consider inviting small groups of people (usually less than 20) to gather, perhaps in your home, to discuss the issue before your church conference. Try having coffee, meeting for lunch, or just dropping by in smaller congregations. Think of it as an election where you work for what you believe is suitable for your community.
- Remember when churches relied on a good old-fashioned phone tree? It can be just as effective today, albeit more so by calling cell phone numbers rather than landlines. (see #1)
- Create a Facebook page around the issue and actively invite people to it. Ask others to invite those they know in the congregation also. The more opportunities you create to be in a relationship with others, the more it will become apparent your church is filled with people who agree and disagree but who have lived and served together despite differences.
- Don’t forget other social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram make up the big three and give you the most potential social media access to the other church members. Do you need help setting up accounts? A younger person in your congregation or family can be beneficial, and the Iowa Conference Communications Team is always ready to help. Email [email protected] if you have questions.
- Identify and enlist the help of the influencers in your church. Perhaps this is the president of United Women of Faith (formerly United Methodist Women), the Trustee chair, or the faithful servant who has taught children’s Sunday school in your church for 40 years. Is there an influencer in your church who supports disaffiliation? Meet with that person and seek to understand why. Perhaps you can find a way forward together by sharing viewpoints and clarifying any misinformation.
- Mobilize people to attend the disaffiliation church conference (if one is called). Use phone calls, email, “snail” mail, etc., to keep the need to show up and vote at the forefront of people’s minds. Remember, it takes 2/3rds of the voting church members present at the meeting to disaffiliate from The UMC. Your work before a potential vote will help people realize that many wish to remain at UMC. Encourage those people to attend the meeting and vote. Every member’s presence matters (active or inactive - see No.1). Together, you have influence and power!
- Identify members who can speak effectively at the church conference in favor of remaining in The UMC. There will be an opportunity for speeches in favor of and against disaffiliation before the vote. Try to organize speakers and collaborate on who will speak to which talking point as an effective way to maximize impact. Contact your District Superintendent if you need assistance structuring your remarks or honing your talking points. They can direct you to available resources/people.
- Pray and remember that the Holy Spirit is at work. Discipleship includes being faithful to Christ’s call on our lives. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the power of God’s Spirit working in and through you. As the saying goes, YOU have been called to such a time as this!
It is tempting to believe what one hears, especially from beloved family, friends, or clergy; however, personal due diligence is warranted when evaluating matters as weighty as potential disaffiliation. The following are reliable, regularly updated sources of information for more research: