Why has First UMC decided to pursue withdrawal from the United Methodist Church?
The denomination has become ungovernable. There is ongoing and increasing infidelity to covenantal beliefs and doctrine. While bishops and pastors alike promise allegiance to these covenants upon appointment, those leading the church and charged with holding all accountable are unable to hold each other accountable.
We have a language problem and have lost shared meaning on important terms. We often use the same words, cite the same scriptures, quote the same Wesley sermons, and eve pledge allegiance to the same Book of Discipline. Yet, because we don't have a common understanding of what the words mean, we're living entirely different expressions of faith.
We have different theologies: We disagree on the nature, role, and authority of scripture. We disagree on the nature, role, and authority of Jesus. We disagree on the nature of sin and our individual need for atonement. We disagree on the ongoing work of sanctification.
What are the theological foundations that FUMC Upholds that drive the need to withdrawal?
We believe the Bible is true and authoritative, which has been the traditional Christian and Methodist position. However, many within the denomination believe and teach that scripture can be divided and partially ignored or that experience take precedence over scripture.
We believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, crucified at the cross and was dead and buried - and that He rose from the dead on the third day, He ascended to heaven, and He now sits on a throne to the right of God the Father. Christ is Risen and He will come again. These too are the beliefs of traditional Methodism. Yet, some churches teach that incarnation, virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus did not happen.
We believe sin is personal, that it separates us from a relationship with God, needs to be atoned for, and is forgiven when we place our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We must be born again and repent of our sins to reach salvation. These beliefs are the traditional beliefs of Christianity and Methodism. Yet, some within the denomination minimize personal sin or teach that it is corrected solely through acts of death and mercy. many even teach that salvation is universally with no need for repentance or Jesus's atonement.
We believe in the ongoing work of sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit that continues saving us from sin and delivering us into new life. Although this too is a traditional Methodist belief, other churches within the denomination resist the continuing work of the spirit and deny the need for sanctification.
We believe it is time for us to reclaim these theological roots and rediscover the practices that fueled Methodist revival. It is time to leave the division behind us and go forth with our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.
Will the withdrawal affect church staff, pastors, and leadership?
Withdrawal will not result in personnel changes. Our entire staff, including all pastors, will remain in place, as will our lay-led governance committees. Nothing will change about how our church is led and governed.
How will withdrawal affect our ministries?
Withdrawal will not affect our ministry operations or current programs. Our journey through COVID has given us the opportunity to streamline and focus on what we offer.
What is the general process for how withdrawal happens?
Our church leadership has requested that the district call a church conference for our church membership to vote on withdrawal. The superintendent set a date for the church conference of February 26, 2023 at 1:00 pm.
At the church conference, though everyone is welcome to attend, only church members will vote. Upon a 2/3rds majority vote, the annual conference and our church will complete the withdrawal process.
To confirm your membership or to become a member, call the church office (352) 394-2412. Some of you have been attending for years yet are not an official member.
When do you expect withdrawal to be complete?
After our church votes to withdraw from the UMC, the annual conference of the United Methodist Church must formally vote to affirm, which is June 9 - 11th, 2023.
What changes can we expect after withdrawal?
The day-to-day operations of our church will remain the same. The only changes will be seen on the signage with the name change.
During this time, what can I, as a congregate, do?
2. Become a member now if you seek to vote. IF you are uncertain of your membership status or want to become a member, call the church office. Dates for the next New Members Class coming soon.
3. Remain active in serving, worshiping, discipleship and giving.
4. Share in the experience of what God is doing and look forward to what He will do in the future.