The news around here is that the Leadership Board of First United Methodist Church – Deming has decided to have the church enter the discernment period as we decide as a church body whether we will remain a United Methodist Church or if we will disaffiliate and go another direction. The Leadership Board’s choices were either to decide on behalf of the church membership to remain United Methodist (which would have meant the membership did not get voice or vote in the decision) or to enter the discernment period and let the church members vote on the direction for this church.
However, we are not at the voting point yet. Per the conference disaffiliation policy, the discernment period is “no less than four months and no more than six months.” That means over the next 4-6 months we are to be in prayer seeking God’s wisdom, guidance, and direction. During these months there will also be at least two listening sessions for the church membership. These sessions are very important. They are where we get information on the process and where we can all ask questions and get answers. The listening sessions will be led by our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Pam Rowley. The first listening session is scheduled for Friday, April 14th at 5:30 p.m. Please mark your calendars and make plans to attend. Your voice is very important as we pursue this journey. The second listening session is still to be scheduled.
So, what can we do between now and April 14? Number one is to PRAY! PRAY! And PRAY some more. We truly want this to be God’s plan for God’s church and not our plan for our church. We want a plan based on Godly intention and not on human emotion. Number two is to check your church membership status. Although the listening sessions are open to everyone who is connected with the church, only official members can vote. That means you have stood before the congregation and made the vow to uphold this church by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness. Let me stress that again. Everyone has a voice that can be heard in this process, but you MUST be an official member of FUMC – Deming to have a vote. Number three is to attend as many Leadership Board meetings as you desire. Most of the work and a lot of discussion will be done at these meetings. Leadership Board meetings are open to anybody. The only exception is if we would have to enter into executive session to discuss personnel issues. The Leadership Board meets the second Tuesday of every month at noon. You can bring a sack lunch if you wish. And finally, PRAY! PRAY! And PRAY again! There can never be too much prayer, especially during this season in the life of our church.
At the end of the 4-6 month period, the church body will vote during a special, called church conference. It takes a 2/3 majority vote of the members present at the meeting to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. Anything less than that, even if it is one vote short of the 2/3, means we will remain a congregation of The United Methodist Church.
I know this is a long and drawn-out process. I also know that it is likely to be very painful for all of us, no matter which side our loyalties are on. We can’t help but have our emotions strongly tied to our place of worship; and any disruption to the church will be hurtful to our emotions. I just ask that we remember who is in charge during this process. God is in charge. We are not. As such, we need to strive to have as much love and grace throughout this discernment period as Jesus had for you and me when he subjected Himself to the brutal torture of the cross and still has for you and me today. Remember that we were all friends and family before the discernment period started. We would like to remain friends and family afterwards, even if we disagree with the outcome. So, keep your church and all of us in prayer. The Leadership Board and I will keep you informed of developments and progress along the way.
May God’s love and grace prevail in all of us during this time.