Frequently Asked Questions

 What is the Discernment Process?

The Discernment Process is the official process for a church to consider its affiliation with the United Methodist Church as a denomination. For the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, the Discernment Process includes a Town Hall hosted by the District Superintendent and, potentially, a Church Conference including all church members.


What is disaffiliation?

Disaffiliation is the step that local churches have taken to no longer be United Methodist congregations. Within the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference, 39 churches have disaffiliated within the past year. Some other churches have already voted on whether to disaffiliate or not. Some other churches have entered the Discernment Process.


Why are churches disaffiliating from the UMC?

For over 40 years, there have been struggles in the UMC regarding human sexuality. Recently, those struggles intensified due to the continued ordination of openly non-celibate homosexuals and the performance of same-sex unions by United Methodist clergy. These have occurred in other annual conferences in opposition to church belief and without disciplinary accountability. In 2019, the General Conference, a gathering of delegates from across the world that creates the rules for the UMC, supported a traditional understanding of human sexuality. In the aftermath, many bishops openly stated that they would not uphold the prohibitions against same sex marriage in UM churches nor the prohibition against ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Even so, no disciplinary actions have been taken against the bishops who are permitting this. Further, acceptance of this disciplinary disobedience appears to be growing, including the adoption of a resolution at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference which implores Annual Conferences to not pursue complaints against those breaking covenant in these ways.


 Who is on the Discernment Team?

The Discernment Team was identified by the Aldersgate Leadership Council. It includes Jennifer Elmore (Chairperson, ALC); Joe Guillot (Vice Chairperson, ALC); Wendy Askew (Lay Leader), George Mingledorff (Lay Member to Annual Conference); Julia Stevenson (Chairperson, Finance); and Brian Miller (Senior Minister)


 What will the Discernment Team do?

The Discernment Team will have three primary responsibilities, including (1) gathering the best and most detailed information regarding disaffiliation, (2) creating a plan for Town Halls and information sessions for the congregation, and (3) communicating the process, key issues, and the most helpful information to the congregation. Reports from the Discernment Team will be readily available in the newsletter and at information sessions.


 Who makes the decision about disaffiliating from the UMC?

The only local body with the authority to decide to end Aldersgate’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church is a Church Conference. A Church Conference is an open meeting. However, only verified professing members who are present have an opportunity to vote. If a Church Conference vote supports a resolution to disaffiliate by a minimum of 2/3 vote, the resolution passes. The resolution would then be taken before the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for approval.


 Is there a timeline for the Discernment Process?

A called session of annual conference to deal with disaffiliations will be held in November 2023. To be a part of that called session of annual conference, the Church Conference will have to be held before September 12. The Town Hall convened by the District Superintendent will occur weeks in advance of the Church Conference. Meanwhile, the Discernment Team will hold monthly information sessions to share information and provide opportunity for feedback.


 If we disaffiliate, what then?

The two broadest possible steps following a disaffiliation is for the church to remain independent or to affiliate with another denomination. This will be a significant point of interest for the Discernment Team and will be an important part of information sessions. Some options that disaffiliated churches have chosen are the Global Methodist Church, the Free Methodist Church, and the Wesleyan Church.


 How can my voice make a difference?

First, the Discernment Team actively seeks questions and comments regarding the Discernment Process. You can email them to [email protected].

Second, be a part of the monthly information sessions. During these sessions, the Discernment Team will share information and seek feedback.

Third, if you are a verified professing member, you will be part of a voting body should a Church Conference be called.


I’m an LGBTQ person or ally. Am I still welcome here?

Absolutely. One of the core beliefs of the church is that all people are of sacred worth and created in the image of God. You are valued. We do believe that the scriptures teach the practice of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage between one man and one woman. However, we do not question your salvation or your relationship with Jesus as an LGBTQ person or ally. We also believe that it is possible for us to disagree on this issue while remaining in the same church family.