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The United Methodist Church


Bishop John Schol

Serving

Eastern Pennsylvania

& Greater New Jersey

April 21, 2022

Haz click aquí para español.

한국어 버전은 여기를 클릭하세요.

Bishop Schol’s second message about Disaffiliation


This is the second letter about congregations seeking to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. The first letter addressed:

 

•           The heart of the matter.

•           Who EPA will be.

•           EPA’s focus.

 

You may find a copy of the letter here (in English).

In Spanish: Haz click aquí para español.

In Korean: 한국어 버전은 여기를 클릭하세요.

God did not bring us to this place for our destruction, but a future of hope.

                                                       -Jeremiah 29:11

Dear United Methodist Laity and Clergy in Eastern Pennsylvania,

 

In this season, we are encountering what Methodism has faced several times since its inception in 1784, churches disaffiliating from the denomination. In the past it has been because of slavery, women in ministry, integration of the church, and today it is because of different beliefs about ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. Let me be clear, LGBTQ persons are not the reason for our differences, our differences are because of our own beliefs, traditions, understandings, and attitudes.

 

The elected and staff leadership has chosen to be transparent and share forthrightly the information about the challenges and how churches may disaffiliate. The third and final letter about disaffiliation will be shared in May, and it will provide the process, costs and steps to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church (UMC) and the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference (EPA).

 

In this letter I will share:

• Foundational beliefs, theology and commitments.

• Pathways for EPA and your congregation’s future. 

Foundational Beliefs, Theology and Commitments

United Methodists have foundational values that shape who we are as disciples, as a denomination and as congregations. Some of these include the following.

 

Grace - God’s grace is sufficient for salvation and is offered to all through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Extending God’s Grace - Grace is extended through the sacraments of communion and baptism to adults, youth and children, inviting all people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and by practicing the Wesleyan means of grace[i].

 

The Bible – The Bible is the primary authority and revelation for salvation and holy living, and is interpreted through tradition, reason and experience.

 

Personal and Social Holiness – United Methodists grow spiritually and are accountable for witness, service and doing justice in the world.

 

Connectionalism - United Methodists are connected through a web of congregations and organizations that share a common mission, doctrine, apportioned financial mission support, itineracy, and holy conferencing.

 

Trust Clause – As a connectional church, United Methodists hold property in common. Property of The United Methodist Church is held in trust for the United Methodist mission and ministry. When a church discontinues as a United Methodist congregation, either by closing or disaffiliating from The United Methodist Church, all real and personal property reverts back to The United Methodist Church to strengthen the witness and mission of the church. The third letter will further explain why and how churches in this season of disaffiliation may leave the denomination with their property. 

 

Diversity and Inclusion – United Methodists welcome, include and involve all people in the life of the church guided by the scriptures, doctrine and Wesleyan values.

 

Open Itineracy – United Methodist bishops and superintendents teach, support and practice open itineracy in making appointments while at the same time recognizing differences among congregations in theology, languages spoken, leadership needs and contexts.  

 

EPA Commitment - Further, EPA at the 2019 Annual Conference Session, affirmed that it would be One Church, a conference that strives to be racially, ethnically, linguistically, geographically, theologically and in beliefs. In essence we affirmed that we are bound together through our common calling to love God and to love our neighbor, and that we have a common mission. 

 

Being One Church, we in essence recognized that there will be differences in the way congregations live out the calling and mission. We believe that all congregations are called to show hospitality to whoever comes to our churches and that we would have congregations in which LGBTQ persons would lead side by side with heterosexual leaders and that there would be congregations that would not have leaders or appointments of LGBTQ persons. We understood that there would not be one way of doing and being in ministry, but that we would all love God and our neighbor. EPA has affirmed this, and this is how we continue to form, lead and serve.

Pathways for EPA and Your Congregation’s Future

The elected and staff leadership of EPA are calling all congregations to a time of discernment. The world and church have been through a difficult season and as we emerge from this season, all congregations are invited to discern what God has next for them. Over the next two years, EPA will focus on its mission and ministry with our communities. This mission and ministry is primarily through our congregations, and therefore, our emphasis will be on assisting congregations to be healthy, vital mission congregations.


While there will be some congregations that seek disaffiliation, more than 90% of our time will be spent with the congregations that seek to continue our core mission and values. The pathways for EPA include, but are not limited to, the following.


  1. Growing a Vital Mission Congregation – training, planning and coaching to develop and carry out a plan to grow any one or more of the following: worship, small groups, mission engagement, new disciples and generosity.
  2. Missional Sustainability – understanding your congregation’s financial strengths and challenges and how to strengthen your sustainability.
  3. A Path Towards Wholeness Training and Planning – learning, understanding and growing to end the sin of racism.
  4. Property Development – assessing your property for future mission (building expansion, turning space into community ministry, selling property).
  5. Conflict Resolution – a facilitated process for congregations experiencing conflict about direction, mission, leadership or programing.


God has a great future for your congregation and EPA. All are invited to discern a pathway for your congregation to emerge into God’s vision and hope for the mission and ministry of your congregation. Together we will be United Methodists, a grace filled diverse people faithfully following God’s calling in each context where our congregations are planted.


Keep the faith!


John

Bishop John Schol

The United Methodists of

Eastern Pennsylvania & Greater New Jersey

BishopJohnSchol@epaumc.org | 610-666-1442

BishopJohnSchol@gnjumc.org | 732-359-1010


Equipping transformational leaders for 

New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World

You are welcome to share this letter with others and to distribute it through your church website, Facebook page and newsletter.

[i] The Means of Grace

United Methodists practice the means of grace. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, taught that while God’s grace is unearned, we are not to be idle waiting to experience grace. Rather, we should engage in the means of grace. God’s mystery works in the hearts and thinking of disciples through the means of grace, hastening, strengthening and confirming faith so that God's grace pervades in and through disciples. The means of grace are categorized into works of piety and works of mercy.

 

Works of Piety

Individual Practices include reading, meditating on and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, holistic healthy living, and sharing our faith with others.

Communal Practices include regularly sharing in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another in small groups), and Bible study.

 

Works of Mercy

Individual Practices include doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others.


Communal Practices include advocating for and seeking justice, ending oppression, injustice and discrimination (for instance Wesley challenged Methodists to end slavery), and addressing the needs of others, particularly the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the children, the elderly and vulnerable persons.

 

Living the Membership Vows

Every United Methodist is called to witness and actively participate in the life of the church as they fulfill their membership vows.

  1. Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;
  2. Accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;
  3. Confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord;
  4. Remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world;
  5. Be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries;
  6. Faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness;
  7. Receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
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The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference | 610-666-9090

980 Madison Avenue, Norristown, PA 19403 | www.epaumc.org