faqs regarding the conference vote

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?

1. Pray

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.

The following article is an excerpt from "The Multifaceted Nature of Progressive Theology" by the Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, the Rev. Emily Nelms Chastain & Erin Grasse. Appearing on The Connectional Table of the UMC website.

July 30, 2019

          While we do have a set of Articles of Religion, our ever-changing contexts necessitate that every generation engage its own theological task and rethink God anew. If our theology is to be critical and constructive as well as contextual and incarnational, no one theological articulation can pretend to be univocal and universal. If the reality of God's presence in our lives is indeed mysterious, we cannot pretend that anyone of us at any given time and place has a full comprehension of God that is not in constant need of rethinking. We each have a story to tell about God and what God is doing in our lives, but all of these stories are ongoing. 

In addition to the criteria set forth in The Book of Discipline, we would argue that progressive theology must work within the framework of pluralism, feminism, liberationism, post-colonialism, queer theology and ecological and environmental responsibility. Each provides something of importance for an authentic progressive faith. 

Societies and communities have become increasingly religiously pluralistic. As Christians, we have to come to terms with the fact that we are not the sole possessors of religious truth and values. Thus, there is great value for a progressive theology to be constructed in dialogue with other religious traditions, whereby we can learn new modes of religious discourse as well as come to a better appreciation of our own traditions. 

A queer theological framework is one that does not fear boundaries, but rather understands them as fluid mile markers that are open to reinterpretation. It is a framework that the church needs to help de-center, challenge and dislodge the rampant heterosexism that persists to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people and relegate them to second class citizens. Such a framework will help to liberate us from our heterosexism and lead us to affirm God's mystery and the complex, beautiful and diverse mystery of human sexuality.

Yes, there is an agenda that drives progressive theology and we need to embrace that openly. Such an agenda will lead us toward justice for all of God's people and God's creation. Within such a framework, we must be willing to allow for variety in theological articulations. If not, we will end up with fundamentalism on the left. The late Doug Adams of Pacific School of Religion had always reminded students and colleagues alike is that fundamentalism, either on the right or on the left, is still fundamentalism and equally oppressive and harmful.