Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Discernment Process?
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.
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
churches disaffiliating from the UMC?
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?
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
What will the Discernment Team do?
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
Is there a timeline for the Discernment Process?
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?
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
How can my voice make a difference?
Discernment Team actively seeks questions and comments regarding the Discernment
Process. You can email them to [email protected].
a part of the monthly information sessions. During these sessions, the
Discernment Team will share information and seek feedback.
you are a verified professing member, you will be part of a voting body should
a Church Conference be called.
LGBTQ person or ally. Am I still welcome here?
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.